Ana and the Art of Faking It

ana and the art of la-pelicula-de-ana

“Nobody does anything for free any more,” says a character in a comedy we enjoyed on our movie listings earlier this year. Directed by Daniel Diaz Torres, La película de Ana (Ana’s film) was chosen as the best feature film in 2012 by the Cuban Association of Cinema Press. However, beyond the institutional awards and other awards that it will surely receive, for now it has received the invaluable audience award from a public that has welcomed it with abundant smiles and applause. In the title role, Laura de la Uz portrays the life of an actress lurching between one mediocre role and another, between bad adventures for teenagers and worse soap operas for housewives. Spurred on by material problems, and especially by an urge to buy a refrigerator, she decides to pass herself off as a prostitute for a documentary being produced by some Austrians. What could have been one more role, a sequence of stereotypes and exaggerations, becomes Ana’s best performance.

Like a game of mirrors, the film superimposes reality and falsehood, the emotional and the histrionic. Not even the humor and jocular speeches manage to seriously detract from the drama that unfolds like a survival tool. It gets complicated for Ana, as she puts herself fully in a world she thinks she knows, but that overwhelms her and drags her down. She poses her family without their knowing it; films her neighbors to shore up the improvised script, and lies, lies, lies. She herself becomes the director of a film with innumerable planes that want to meet the expectations of the foreign producers. However, to the commonplace is added the hardness of her life, no make-up, no need to over-dramatize it.

La pelicula de Ana causes us a female, national, human, shame. Embarrassment at all those who see us posing as others. The man who smokes a cigar — even though he doesn’t like it — so the tourists will take his photo and pay him for it. The official whose mask of ideological simulation has now merged with his own face. And also those who feed the simulation, because they themselves have lost the capacity to distinguish which part of the story was invented, and which not. Like an Ana who, although she takes off her make-up and turns off the camera, she will continue acting and pretending.

February 5 2013


30 thoughts on “Ana and the Art of Faking It

  1. Please do not write in all capital letters. Future posts in all caps will be erased. Thank you. YFET

  2. @help….you have a efying nerve man.
    You can badmouth Cuba all you want. Fact remains, present day Cuba and the Castros are the creation of the US. Get that thru your thick skull.

  3. @ SECRET,

    I know what happens in France and Europe. A lot of Communists and Socialists in France are fascists, racists and gangsters, but use those labels to attack anyone who stand up to them.

    Cuba is full of crack cocaine and every other drug under the sun. Castro was the biggest cocaine trafficker in the Caribbean for a while.

    Cuba is also a coast-to-coast brothel, a pimp’s paradise. And the police take part in all the action.

    Under Batista there was a lot of corruption. Under Castro there is a lot more corruption and a lot less freedom.

    Good luck to you.

  4. The trafficking of Cuban women and children for commercial sex, are encourage by their families to obtain food or money. Hotel workers, taxi drivers and the security personnel involved in the tourist industry, facilitate the sexual commercial exploitation of women and children by tourists, meanwhile the corrupt regime authorities look the other way.

    The Castroit regime provides very little information on child prostitution, and block human right organizations from finding out about human rights abuses. The regime doesn’t acknowledge that child sex trafficking exist. The regime economy profits from sex tourism in order to prop up the worker’s paradise. It is ironic that the regime, because its economic problems and the revenue the sex trade generates, allow it to attracts more tourists. As Yoani says, “the cycle of sex for money comes full circle.” What a shame.

  5. Good post, Sandokan.

    Except that 100,000 is a very low estimate, except maybe for 24/7 full-time Cuban prostitutes. If you’re talking part-time, it’s many times that amount. And most Cuban women I’ve met have sold their bodies at one point or another out of desperation.

    So who did Fidel blame for all that? Oh yeah, I forgot, he said there are almost no prostitutes in Cuba, which must have made almost every Cuban laugh.

  6. “Who will be able to forget that in our country the Yankees imposed prostitution on 100,000 women?” Speech, July 26, 1972. “The prostitution in this country with a little more than 6 million people had 100 000 prostitutes.” Speech, September 28, 1977.

    On February 14, 1958, El Mundo newspaper ran a feature that addressed the social problem of prostitution, estimating in 11,000 the number of people engaged in this type of activity, including not only the number of prostitutes but also the beneficiaries of their environment. This figure was confirmed approximately in various official publications of the regime like the Bohemia magazine that reported 12,000 in 1958, the newspaper Revolución in 1959 and some early documents of the Federación de Mujeres Cubanas dealing with the labor relocation of prostitutes. In 1984 the figure was also confirmed by a publication of the Editorial de Ciencias Sociales under the title “In the last year that republic.” Castro by an act of magic increased that number to a 100,000. These official publications figure puts Castro in the prisoners’ dock for fraud and slanderer.

    In 1958 the Cuban population was 6.6 million, and in 2010 reached 11.2 million. The number of people making a living from prostitution now is estimate around 100,000, close to a tenfold increase. Castro, the Pimp in Chief, turned the island into the brothel of the Caribbean.

    As Yoani said in a previous article “Havana has the air of a brothel.”

  7. Thanks Hank, good article.

    I don’t buy any of this “socialist” or “left” BS either, as you mentioned earlier.

    Who cares what Castro calls himself, he’s just the owner of South America’s largest prison, plantation and sweatshop.

    Cuba is the only country in the Americas where you need the government’s permission to travel.

    Not even the old “right-wing” fascist dictators kept their people prisoner, and most were more forgiving to their political enemies than Castro was.

    If the current reforms continue, Cuba will eventually become as liberal politically as Pinochet’s Chile.

  8. Here’s the text of a fascinating and well-articulated article in Foreign Policy about the future of the Left in Latin America.

    The last paragraph sums it up best: “there is but one miracle the left can cling to — that Chávez finds a way to rise from his Havana deathbed.”

    What a horrible place to be — a Havana deathbed — but that seems to be what Chavez wants. There’s no accounting for taste, as the saying goes. Can you imagine having Raul and Fidel looking over you as you die? Horrible. But they have been there before.

    The End of the Latin American Left
    Will Hugo Chávez’s revolution die with him?

    The exact condition of Hugo Chávez continues to be a Churchillian riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. The Venezuelan president, who won his third reelection last October and has been hospitalized in Cuba for many weeks with cancer, missed his own inauguration in January. In his absence, Vice President Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’s hand-picked successor, has been left in charge of the government indefinitely. But Maduro is no Chávez, lacking both the charisma and the power base of Venezuela’s mercurial leader. And it’s not just a problem for the chattering classes in Caracas: The question haunting the Latin American hard left, which Chávez has dominated in the last decade, is who will take his place.

    In explaining the rise of the political left in Latin America over the past decade, Chávez’s persona looms large. Politicians like Evo Morales, Rafael Correa, and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Chávez for laying the groundwork toward a renewed form of populism, Latin America’s version of socialism. Chávez’s illness has only served to highlight that debt. “The issue of the health of brother Chávez is a problem and a worry not just of Venezuela, but of all the anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist people,” Morales said in January, speaking from behind a podium reading, “We Are All Chávez.” But Chávez’s charisma and ruthless political genius fail to explain why he has been able to achieve such regional clout. Through a canny use of petrodollars, subsidies to political allies, and well-timed investments, Chávez has underwritten his Bolivarian revolution with cash — and lots of it. But that effective constellation of money and charisma has now come out of alignment, leaving a power vacuum that will be difficult for Chávez’s political heirs across the hemisphere to fill.

    Several Latin American leaders would like to succeed him, but no one meets the necessary conditions: Cuba’s blessing, a fat wallet, a country that carries enough demographic, political and economic weight, potent charisma, a willingness to take almost limitless risks, and sufficient autocratic control to allow him or her to devote major time to permanent revolution away from home.

    What will happen is partly in Cuba’s hands. Because Cuba has made Venezuela into its foreign-policy proxy, the Castro brothers need Caracas to remain the capital of the movement for it to retain any vitality. While Cuba is dependent on the roughly 100,000 barrels of heavily subsidized oil Chávez’s regime supplies to Cuba daily, the island nation has a grip on Venezuela’s intelligence apparatus and social programs. Chávez himself acknowledged last year that there are almost 45,000 Cuban “workers” manning many of his programs, though other sources speak of an even larger number. This strong connection allows Cuba to exercise a vicarious influence over many countries in the region. Caracas’s clout in Latin America stems from Petrocaribe, a mechanism for helping Caribbean and Central American countries purchase cheap oil, and ALBA, an ideological alliance that promotes “21st century socialism.” The combination of the two gives Caracas, and therefore Havana, some authority over the politics of 17 other countries.

    What does this mean for the future of the left? Essentially that Cuba will do its utmost to prop up Maduro. Chávez’s chosen man will never be a revered figure — his talents as a politician are lackluster — but with Havana’s backing and control of the money funneled to the region’s leaders, he will retain some of Chavez’s stature. In recent months, he and what might be called the civilian nucleus of the Venezuelan government have been a constant presence in Havana, where they have relied on the information supplied to them by Cuba about Chávez’s real condition. This clique is comprised mainly of Rosa Virginia, Chávez’s eldest daughter; her husband Jorge Arreaza, who is also a minister; Cilia Flores, Maduro’s wife and the prosecutor general of the regime; and, finally, Rafael Ramírez, the head of the oil giant PDVSA.

    Maduro has made most of his key political announcements from Havana, often flanked by some of these people as a way to consolidate his legitimacy inside the Venezuelan military, where he has rivals, and of course the Latin American left writ large. It seems to have worked for now: The region’s left lent him dutiful support through various regional bodies when the opposition denounced the arrangements that have turned him into an acting president indefinitely. In a statement put out by Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, the Organization of American States supported the constitutional arrangements in Venezuela in the wake of Chavez´s absence — and incurred the ire of MUD, the united opposition.

    Critical in all of this is the money at Maduro’s disposal. The sales of PDVSA, the state-owned oil cash cow, amounted to $124.7 billion in 2011, of which one-fifth went to the state in the form of taxes and royalties, and another fourth was channeled directly into a panoply of social programs. This kind of management makes for very bad economics, a reason why the company needs to resort to debt to fund its basic capital expenditures, and for decreasing productivity, but it remains crucial for the regime and the Latin American left. Funding social programs at home and subsidizing oil shipments abroad, as well as giving cash to various foreign entities, is in good part what makes Caracas the epicenter of the left. Consequently, the support Maduro enjoys from Cuba and the money at his disposal offsets his lack of Chávez-like charisma.

    Although Venezuela’s current economic debacle has had a debilitating effect on the system described above, as has Chávez’s ill health, China has helped mitigate the impact. The China Development Bank and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China have lent Caracas $38 billion to fund some social programs, a bit of infrastructure spending, and purchases of Chinese products and services. Another $40 billion has been promised to fund part of the capital expenditures needed to maintain the flow of oil committed to Beijing. The oxygen provided by Beijing gives Caracas some ability to grease the regional machinery despite the domestic crisis.

    Cuba’s support for Maduro and his oil money notwithstanding, there will still be a vacuum of sorts at the top of the Latin American left after the vice president takes over from Chávez on a permanent basis — assuming he is able to consolidate his own power internally and fend off his military rivals. Other Latin American leaders will clearly see an opening at least to enlarge their role if not lead the left outright.

    Argentina’s Kirchner is already trying. As she has further radicalized in response to an acute economic crisis at home and the rise of an opposition both within the ranks of her party and among the large middle class, in looking for a major Latin American role she has departed from traditional Peronismo. In the last year, she has made her country’s claim to the Falkland Islands, now under British control, a focal point of her foreign policy, obtaining explicit support at Mercosur (the South American common market) and UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations). Until recently, she limited her rapport with Caracas to business and occasional gestures rather than ideology — Buenos Aires sold sovereign bonds to Caracas a few years ago and was later able to import fuel cheaply and sign trade deals. Now she makes trips to Havana too and has raised her voice in denouncing the usual imperialist suspects — certain liberal democracies, foreign investors, international courts, and the IMF. By adopting this tone, she hopes to rally the base at a difficult time. She is currently barred from seeking reelection in 2015 but is aiming to change the constitution to allow her to seek another term, a move laden with certain Chávismo overtones.

    There are, however, limits to her potential role as a leader of the Latin American left. The most important one is economic. The statist, populist Argentine model is now bankrupt. Economic growth was minimal in 2012, a year that also saw record inflation and the expansion of capital controls to prevent a stampede of dollars. This would not be an insurmountable political obstacle were it not for the fact that a majority of Argentineans are now opposed to her — her approval rating is down to 30 percent — and that her own party is fractured. It is one thing to fight the “fascist right” as the head of a united Peronista front. But it is quite another for Kirchner to be denounced more stridently by her leftist base than by the center-right. Apart from the fact that she lacks the funds to finance regional revolution — despite running the largest populist economy in Latin America — Kirchner can ill afford to devote her attention to foreign matters. Last but not least, Argentina is too large and too proud a country for it to accept near-subordination to Cuba, a key condition for leading the Latin American rebels.

    What about Bolivia’s Morales? Given the symbolism of his indigenous roots, he seems a strong prospective candidate. But he is geographically too far from Havana — Chávez´s constant pilgrimages to Cuba would be hard for Morales to replicate. He too has mounting problems at home, where his social and political base is now severely split. Unlike Chávez, who has been able to group his different supporters under a socialist umbrella organization, Morales’s party, MAS, has become isolated from the myriad social movements that once backed him and now claim he is not delivering on promises of social justice. His main fights have not been with the right but with these organizations, which have paralyzed the country at various times.

    Like other populists, Morales has some cash at his disposal through the sale of natural resources. But private investment is tiny in Bolivia, and Morales has doubled the proportion of the economy directly under government control. Because he needs to pour resources into populist economic programs to keep his enemies at bay, Morales cannot afford to fund foreign adventures. In fact, his need for cash is forcing him to charge Kirchner, a close ally, about four times more for Bolivia’s natural gas than the going rate in Argentina’s own gas-producing region, the Neuquen Basin. Lastly, Bolivia’s economy is tiny, amounting to just 8 percent of Venezuela’s.

    Correa, who as president of Ecuador heads an oil-producing country, is another possibility. He certainly has the ambition and is the intellectual alpha male of the pack. His inevitable reelection this month will give him renewed vigor. But his country produces five times less oil than Venezuela and, with an economy less than a fifth the size, is in no position to command leadership regionally. After tripling government spending since he came to power in 2007, Correa’s coffers face a fiscal deficit of 7.7 percent of GDP. And because it defaulted on part of the national debt in 2008, Ecuador is barred from capital markets. If not for the $7 billion-plus lifeline China has thrown Correa in advance payments for oil and credits, the country’s financial situation would be dire. Given that 80 percent of Ecuador’s oil exports have been pledged as guarantee against these loans, Correa would never be able to subsidize other countries.

    That leaves Brazil, the single most powerful Latin American country and a symbol of ideological moderation that may well hold the key to the destiny of the Latin American left — if only it wanted to. Until now, Brazil has deliberately given Chávez the space to play a disproportionate role in the neighborhood. Since former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had Marxist roots and a radical base to please, he made up for his responsible domestic policies by tolerating, and sometimes encouraging, Chávez’s leadership of the regional left. In foreign policy, Lula preferred to spend his time cementing ties with the other BRIC countries and collecting allies in Africa, partly with a view to building up support for a permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council. The rest was spent cozying up to the United States’s adversaries, including Iran, and proposing solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian question (an initiative for which he teamed up with Turkey).

    Dilma Rousseff, the current Brazilian president and Lula’s political heir, has moderated her country’s foreign policy but is conscious of the fact that her overbearing predecessor and the party base want close relations with the left. This is a major reason for having kept Marco Aurélio Garcia, a man umbilically connected with the regional populists, as a foreign policy advisor.

    But Dilma is not personally interested in leading Latin America’s left. Her country’s main economic tool in Latin America, the Brazilian development bank BNDES, funds mostly domestic companies investing in the region, not other governments, and its disbursements in Latin America totaled a mere $1 billion last year. An initiative for integrating South America’s infrastructure led by Brazil, known as IIRSA, lacks a political or ideological imprint. Dilma also confronts an economic challenge that Lula was spared. Growth has stalled (it barely cracked 1 percent last year), and some serious soul-searching is underway about why the emerging star of the last decade is now facing the prospect of a mediocre future if new reforms are not undertaken.

    All of this points to the Cuba-Venezuela connection continuing to play a pivotal role through Maduro. That said, Maduro will have considerably less ability to project influence than when Chávez was at the helm. Presumably, the vacuum partially left by Chávez will see various forces vying for an increased role, including Kirchner as the radicalized Peronista running the largest populist economy, while Morales and Correa, as well as Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, call attention to themselves without the necessary power to back their chutzpah. Brazil will arbitrate among these leftists and wait to see what emerges before throwing its lot with anyone.

    With no viable leader to take up Chávez’s mantle, the future portends disarray for the Latin American left. Fearful that this may spell the end of the movement, there is but one miracle the left can cling to — that Chávez finds a way to rise from his Havana deathbed.

  9. P.S.

    If a Cuban citizen applies for a passport in Cuba and is denied the passport, as we are now witnessing, how do those people appeal the decision?

    What’s the administrative body to which a citizen in Cuba seeks review of that agency action?

    I think I already know the answer. There is no appellate procedure because the Cuban dictatorship wants it that way.

  10. Help,

    I’m trying to understand it as well, there is no rhyme or reason that I can divine. It seems completely arbitrary to me.

    There are those in Cuba who’ve been granted passports, and presumably the right to travel, and those who have not. The distinctions, and what places a person in one class or another, escape me. Maybe, as you suggest, it all comes down to the potential for generating revenue/income for the dictatorship machine.

    Here in the U.S., where we are fortunate to live in a society in which the rule of law exists, you can challenge agency actions if they are “arbitrary and capricious.” The Cuban dictatorship’s approach to granting or denying passports seems to be the epitome of capriciousness. They decide if you get one and there’s no appeal that I am aware of if you are denied.

    I have no idea if the “arbitrary and capricious” standard exists in Cuba, but I doubt it. In rule-of-law countries like the U.S., this area of law is highly developed and even has a name: Administrative Law.

  11. If I understand the news reports, a defector can now return to Cuba after EIGHT YEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Wow, that’s some travel liberalization, isn’t it.

    Does anybody have better information???? Please tell me I’m wrong.

    A Cuban couple desperately wants to defect, but they won’t allow the parents out, and there is no way she will leave her sick parents alone for 8 years.

    You know, Castro won’t even allow children to visit their dying parents or attend their funerals.

  12. I’m trying to understand the new travel laws, but obviously nobody in Cuba understands them either.

    A few high-profile dissidents have been told they can leave, others that they can’t.

    Now it’s clear that a passport won’t give you the right to leave either.

    An official can tell anybody they can’t leave, without giving a reason, even if the wannabe traveler has a passport.

    The travel reforms will make it easier for Cubans to work outside the country, but as long as part of the family is held hostage in Cuba, dollars will keep flowing into Cuba.

    I think even more dollars, and that is the idea behind the travel reforms. Along with some good PR.

    If you’re a couple in Cuba and your 4 children are all working outside the country sending you a thousand dollars a month, you’re not so eager to leave anymore anyways.

    Plus those 4 children have to come back to Cuba to visit their parents and each visit pumps more dollars into Castro’s economy.

    I hope I’m wrong, the Cuban people are sick of supporting Castro.

  13. WASHINGTON POST: Cuba’s Ladies in White chief gets passport, plans Europe trip; 2nd dissident told can’t travel

    HAVANA — Cuban authorities granted a passport Friday to the leader of a protest group that received the European Union’s top human rights prize in 2005, even as another, lesser-known dissident reported being told she will not be allowed to leave the country. Berta Soler, the most prominent member of the Ladies in White, picked up her new passport in the morning and said she plans to make a long-delayed trip to Europe to pick up the EU’s Sakharov award, something she has been unable to do until now because she was denied an exit visa.The 50-year-old exit visa requirement, which was often denied to the likes of doctors, military officers and dissidents, has been abolished under travel reform that took effect Jan. 14. Soler said she would contact EU officials to schedule a date, and she’s also hoping to visit Spain and attend two April human rights conferences in Panama and Germany. “I have many invitations to different places,” she told The Associated Press, holding up her new passport.

    Separately, activist Gisela Delgado, a former member of the Ladies, said she visited a migration office to inquire about her status and was told that “I was restricted from traveling because I belonged to counterrevolutionary groups.”

    Delgado already has a passport and has traveled in the past, but last year was denied an exit visa for a trip to the United States.

    Several dissidents including blogger Yoani Sanchez and hunger strike protester Guillermo Farinas say they have been told they can travel. Sanchez already has her passport and plans to visit Brazil on Feb. 17. A lesser-known dissident, Eliecer Avila, has already traveled to Sweden.

    However others, including Angel Moya, one of the 75 locked up in 2003, have been denied travel papers because they have legal sentences pending.



    Promo del Especial de TV Martí: “La Nueva Cuba de Yoani Sánchez” – Domingo 7:30pm – Special feature of TV Marti: “The New Cuba of Yoani Sanchez” – Sunday 7:30 pm


    YOUTUBE: TV Martí interview with Yoani Sanchez’ family in the U.S. – After receiving the passport allowing her to travel outside Cuba, independent blogger Yoani Sanchez said she wants to come over to the USA to visit her older sister, Yunia Sanchez, and her brother in law Jose Antonio Garcia. Yunia and Jose Antonio had not spoken to any media outlet. Now, in an exclusive interview with TV Marti, they refer to Yoani Sánchez, as more than a courageous communicator, but a wife, mother, and a great human being!

    TV Martí entrevista a familia de Yoani Sánchez en EEUU – Tras recibir el pasaporte que le permitirá viajar fuera de Cuba, la bloguera independiente Yoani Sánchez afirmó que desea venir de visita a Estados Unidos, para reunirse con su hermana mayor, Yunia Sánchez, y su cuñado José Antonio García. Yunia y José Antonio no habían hablado con ningún medio de prensa. Ahora, en entrevista exclusiva con Televisión Martí, se refirieron a Yoani Sánchez, más que como la comunicadora valiente, como la mujer, la madre, el ser humano

  16. re: #8, Oh my, what gullible Canadians. Maybe it will happen to Cuba Libre one of these days? He’ll fall in love with a sweet Cuban girl, bring her to Canada, and then wind up fleeced & dumped like a schmuck.

  17. Before Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, prostitutes were register by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which issued them a health card, without which they could not exert prostitution. There were zones of tolerance where the prostitutes could “work”, for example: the neighborhood of Colon, in the center of Havana. In 1958 there were about 10,000 prostitutes register by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

    Cuban prostitutes under the Castroit regime are force to sell their body for a pair of shoes, or for a good meal at a restaurant, a medicine for a child, etc. The Revolution supposedly was done to eliminate that kind of abuse, but instead, the number of prostitutes which Cuba has right now is tenfold higher that before 1959.

    Tourism has created thousands of jobs in the sex trade. A higher ratio of tourists goes to Cuba nowadays for prostitution, instead of the beaches and climate, than any other country in the world. The number of children that are being sexually exploited, particularly below the age of 14, has increased noticeable.

  18. GLOBAL POST: Cuban dissident barred from travel despite reforms – Agence France-Presse

    An opposition leader said Thursday she was denied permission to leave Cuba in the first known rejection since a reform took effect eliminating widely loathed exit visas needed for travel abroad.

    That rule had been in effect for 50 years, and its abolition had been long sought after by Cubans. Some opposition figures remained skeptical, however, that they would in fact be allowed to leave. The reform took effect January 14.

    Gisela Delgado, 47, who belongs to a protest group called the Ladies in White, told AFP Thursday she was denied permission to leave on the grounds that she had engaged in “counter-revolutionary” activities.

    She had wanted to go to the United States to see her parents and daughter.

    Hers is the first known case of the Cuban authorities refusing to let an opposition figure leave the communist-run island.

    The authorities had already denied departure to two former political prisoners. But that case was different, because they were out on parole.

    Those two men — Angel Moya and Jose Daniel Ferrer — were among 75 dissidents jailed in 2003 and sentenced to terms of up to 28 years in prison.

    They were all later freed after an unprecedented dialogue between the Roman Catholic church and the government of Raul Castro.

    Another prominent dissident, the young blogger Yoani Sanchez, who had long been denied exit permits, has now been given a passport allowing her to travel abroad. She plans a foreign tour starting in Brazil on February 17.

    Sanchez said in a Brazilian newspaper interview Thursday that economic reforms undertaken in Cuba have made people hungry for more change.

    “Cuba is ready to enter the 21st century,” Sanchez said, in the interview with the daily Folha de Sao Paulo.



    GLOBAL POST: Cubans want more reforms: dissident blogger – Agence France-Presse

    President Raul Castro’s economic reforms “have whetted the appetite of Cubans” who now want more, opposition blogger Yoani Sanchez said in an interview with a Brazilian newspaper Thursday.

    “I am not naive about the changes in Cuba, about the small economic adjustments which Castro introduced,” the prominent Cuban dissident, who recently received a passport allowing her to travel abroad, said from Havana.

    “Cuba is ready to enter the 21st century,” Sanchez said, in the interview with the daily Folha de Sao Paulo.

    She has just obtained a visa to visit Brazil, which will be her first stop on a foreign tour that will begin February 17.

    During her stay in Brazil, the blogger will attend the opening of Brazilian filmmaker Dado Galvao’s 2009 documentary “Connection Cuba-Honduras,” in which she is interviewed.

    Galvao had launched a campaign to secure Sanchez’s visit to Brazil.

    Sanchez, who often criticizes the government in her “Generation Y” blog, had a visa to visit Brazil last year but was unable to make the trip because she had no passport and was refused one.

    During a planned February 20-21 stay in Sao Paulo, the blogger will attend the launch of her book, “From Cuba with Affection,” and give interviews to local media, according to Contexto, the publisher.

    After Brazil, she plans to visit Peru, the Czech Republic and Mexico, where she is to attend a meeting of the Inter-American Press Association on March 8.



    THE STAR CANADA NEWS: From Cuba, yet another broken heart – Like Brampton’s Erin Standen, John-Barry Livingstone claims he was taken advantage of by a spouse who left soon after arriving in Canada. – By: Nicholas Keung

    In the past decade, 10,563 Cubans came to Canada as permanent residents, the majority under spousal sponsorships or family reunification.

    According to an immigration official, marriages of convenience have become a concern at the Havana visa office. In a quality assurance exercise in 2011, officials contacted a sample of Canadians who had married and sponsored Cubans. About one-third of those relationships had ended soon after the new spouse’s arrival in Canada. Fraud and misrepresentation were often cited as the reason, leading officials to review applications more closely than before.

    Two years after his Cuban wife left him, John-Barry Livingstone is left with more than a broken heart.

    When his three-year financial commitment as spousal sponsor to Vilma-Rosa Morales-Rodriguez ended last April, the Toronto architect received a $3,800 bill from the province for the welfare benefits his wife has collected.

    Stories like his — and that of a Brampton woman whose tale of crushed Cuban love appeared in Thursday’s Star — occur often, according to immigration lawyer Sergio Karas. Many of his clients come seeking help after a sponsored spouse abruptly leaves — five or six a year from the Dominican Republic alone.



    TIME MAGAZINE: Marco Rubio “Immigrant Son” – By Michael Grunwald

    Oriales García Rubio knows how it feels to want more. When she was a girl in central Cuba in the 1930s, her family of nine lived in a one-room house with a dirt floor. Her dolls were Coke bottles dressed in rags. She dreamed of becoming an actress. Instead she married a security guard, moved with him to the U.S. and found work as a hotel maid. Her husband got a job as a bartender while starting a series of failed businesses—a vegetable stand, a dry cleaner, a grocery. They never had much. But their house had a real floor. Their daughters had real dolls. They sent all four of their children to college to chase their own dreams.

    That’s why on the morning of Dec. 21, she called her youngest son, Marco Antonio Rubio, the 41-year-old Senator from Florida and great Hispanic hope of the Republican Party—or, as she calls him, Tony. She got his voice mail. “Tony, some loving advice from the person who cares for you most in the world,” she said in Spanish. “Don’t mess with the immigrants, my son. Please, don’t mess with them.” She reminded him that undocumented Americans—los pobrecitos, she called them, the poor things—work hard and get treated horribly. “They’re human beings just like us, and they came for the same reasons we came. To work. To improve their lives. So please, don’t mess with them.”


  22. I guess that goes well under the Art of Faking it… faking you have a point faking you really care about Cuba’s future, faking that you are something which you are not, and more importantly since this is a blog, faking that what you say and do is honest… darling even your tone is fake… you lost your honesty when you moved to the US… Cubans may be liars in their country but they are not fakes!… a difference you know not!

  23. Humberto, #1

    I agree with you entirely. There is no “socialism” or “communism” in Cuba. All that exists in Cuba is a machine whose sole purpose is to stay in power and perpetuate itself ad infinitum. Like a virus. And just like a virus, the Cuban dictatorship is a lifeless thing that exists only to reproduce and perpetuate itself.

    Cuba doesn’t have a government either. It has a clan that rules via institutionalized slavery. It is a plantation/kingdom overseen by a few who get away with it because they have guns, and weapons, and thugs who get paid to keep it all going. Cuba is the disgrace of the western hemisphere.


    MIAMI HERALD: Flights to Cuba cut back for lack of demand – By Juan O. Tamayo

    A weekly flight between Los Angeles and Havana made its last trip Wednesday, the latest victim of a sharp reduction in U.S.-Cuba charter flights that industry officials blame on vastly overblown predictions of a boom in demand.

    Cuba Travel Services of Long Beach, run by Michael Zuccato, announced that it had cancelled its once-a-week, non-stop flight after the chartered United jetliner returned Wednesday to LAX because of a lack of passengers.

    Last month, Miami-based ABC Charters and XAEL Charters announced they would cancel two Tampa-to-Cuba flights. ABC shut down its weekly flight to Holguin as of Feb. 28, while XAEL will end its one flight to Havana per week on Feb. 14.

    About 45 charter flights per week from the United States to Cuba are now programmed for the month of March, according to knowledgeable charter industry officials, compared to nearly 60 in September. Those flights are well booked, they added.

    “There was the exaggerated image of a great explosion in American passengers. But the point now is that there are not enough passengers to maintain all those flights to Cuba,” said Pedro González Munné, a Miami businessman who monitors travel to the island.

    U.S. companies involved in travel to Cuba began making feverish preparations in 2011 to expand the number of charter flight. Commercial flights to Cuba are not allowed because of the trade embargo, and charters require special U.S. government permits.

    For one, the Obama administration had just announced that it would allow non-Cuban Americans to license educational trips to the island known as “people-to-people” visits. Cuban Americans can go at will on family reunification trips.

    Cuba’s state-owned Havanatour Celimar tourism agency, controlled by military officers relatively new to the tourism industry, also leaned on the charter companies to add new flights, said the industry officials. They asked for anonymity out of fear of retaliation.

    Havanatour may have really believed that lots more U.S. visitors would be arriving, one of the officials noted. But there were also rumors that some of the U.S. firms bribed Cuban officials to obtain permissions for the extra flights.

    U.S. companies suddenly announced plans to run flights from cities like Houston, New Orleans and Baltimore, which have no large Cuban-American populations. One travel analyst predicted up to 600,000 trips between the two countries in 2012.

    Also undermining the predictions of an increase in U.S.-Cuba travel was a Havana decree last year hiking import duties on so-called “mules” — U.S. residents who made an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 trips last year carrying goods for resale or delivery.

    What’s more, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls, in charge of enforcing economic sanctions on Cuba, delayed and denied some license applications last year because of allegations of abuses in the program.

    Cubans in California and Las Vegas sometimes prefer the cheaper flights to Havana connecting through Tijuana, Mexico.

  25. CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY: European People’s Party demands Cuba respect basic freedoms

    Havana, Cuba, Feb 6, 2013 / 04:05 pm (CNA).- A major European political party has approved a series of resolutions calling on Cuba to end violations of basic rights such as conscience and political expression.

    The Christian Liberation Movement, a peaceful dissident group in Cuba, explained during its recent general assembly that the European People’s Party has issued a strong call to the Cuban regime to respect freedom of expression and association.

    The party also demanded the release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Cuba.

    In addition, the oppression of peaceful protestors who seek democratic change in the country must come to an end, it said, and the Communist regime must respect the right of all Cubans to travel freely.

    The party also paid homage to the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, and to dissident Harold Cepero, who were both killed in a traffic accident in Cuba last July. An independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding their deaths has yet to be carried out.

    The European People’s Party further voiced concern about the situation facing refugees fleeing from the violence in Syria. It also adopted an emergency resolution in support of a United Nations’ call for an end to violence in Mali.


    TIME MAGAZINE: Lessons in Socialism: How Cuba Can Become Relevant Again – By Dan Kadlec

    Havana, Cuba — In this once spectacular tropical city, three buildings collapse from neglect every single day. There has been little infrastructure investment in 50 years and the average worker earns $20 a month. By almost any economic measure, socialism under Fidel Castro has been an abject failure.
    I was introduced to this burgeoning new economic order in the person of a young entrepreneur I’ll call Javier. (Javier did not ask that I not use his real name, but after speaking frankly with me about emerging Cuban business opportunities, Javier worried that he had made dangerous political statements. If he were judged to be subversive, his budding business career could be shut down in minutes.)
    Javier is 31 years old. He’s college educated, speaks fluent English, and calls himself “ambitious and restless.” He has taken advantage of the fledgling residential real estate market in Havana, brokering home sales from struggling Cubans to fellow countrymen with money sent from family in the U.S. and abroad. (Foreigners are not allowed to purchase homes directly, so they do it through family.)
    That Javier can operate at all in Cuba testifies to a glacial but perceptible shift to the right. Socialism here has managed to raise the living standards of the destitute, the bottom 20%. But all others have fled or been dragged lower. Whatever leadership succeeds Fidel and Raul, it will have to confront the basic question of whether raising the living standards of the very poorest is worth the toll it has taken on the rest, as well as the toll it’s taken on the country’s infrastructure and even its fertile landscape—much of which is now grown over with weeds. Even dictators want some level of popular support.

    Castro lifted the poorest and stirred nationalist emotions in a historically colonized land. But the physical decay is so extreme that it is difficult to imagine any new leader succeeding for long without reinvigorating an economy that has been bled dry. Perhaps the post-Castro government will consider whether a more open economic policy might lift all boats—even the poor benefit from greater growth, as empowered capitalists have started to show in China.

    Traveling in and around Havana offers stark lessons in the futility of socialism. Billboards are non-existent; there is nothing to advertise except “La Revolución” and “Más Socialismo,” largely self-explanatory terms you find painted on fences and printed on banners on many city blocks, promoting the government.

    Castro elevated health care, education, and the arts. But he did so in part by diverting pesos from sorely needed infrastructure rebuilding. All of Havana is literally crumbling. Stunning facades have fallen in heaps. Throughout this city, brilliant but severely worn architecture lies masked behind the drying laundry of impoverished families crowded into space that at one time bustled with trade and the activities of the well-to-do.

    There are jobs for everyone; unemployment stands at less than 2%. But wages are so low that little gets done. Cuba’s productivity per person ranks among the lowest 3% in the world. A popular refrain heard throughout this city: “Fidel pretends to pay us and we pretend to work.” The only jobs that matter are those where you can pilfer goods from the workplace or which give you access to tourist money. Tour guides and artists who sell to visitors command enviable incomes. Butchers earn more than doctors.


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