The Man in Front of the Microphone

Subtitles read:
Free access to information for me to have my own opinion.
I want to elect the president by direct vote, not by other means.
Neither militants nor dissidents, all Cubans with the same rights.
End the blockade… and the INTERNAL BLOCKADE.

The filters were useless. The many eyes watching the monitors of the “master switch,” with itchy fingers ready to cut the signal, turn off the audio, kill a camera and switch to another focused on the crowd… or even on the heavens…

The professionals were useless, even though they had been carefully trained in TV censorship to cut to a test pattern or superimpose a musical curtain, should any “spontaneous” thing be said that should not be broadcast live.

It was all useless because the man in front of the microphone made the decision of his life: he resolved to put honesty above his own artistic career.

Robertico Carcásses was at the right time and the right place. He couldn’t let the chance go by and so he let loose, on the main stage of the Cuban regime, what so many of us are thinking.

Thank you, Bobby, for your bravery, your originality and for seizing this great opportunity with your voice and your art. Thank you!

*Translator’s note: Carcásses was singing at a concert staged for the release of the “Cuban Five” (Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States) at the Anti-Imperialist Bandstand in Havana, Cuba.

15 September 2013

18 thoughts on “The Man in Front of the Microphone

  1. HEY BOB Marabu! DID YOU READ THIS LETTER FROM ONE OF THE MAIN FOREIGN INVESTORS IN CUBA? CAN YOU SPELL “CASTROFASCIST MAFIA”??

    THE ECONOMIST: Foreign investment in Cuba – The risk of doing business – Aug 13th 2013

    WE HAVE received the following letter from Stephen Purvis, a British businessman who was detained in Cuba for 15 months:
    Dear Editor,

    I enjoyed reading about my misfortunes in the Economist, albeit many months after publication and in the company of fellow inmates in the Cuban high security prison, La Condesa. I would ask you to correct the impression that you give in the May 9th 2012 edition and subsequent articles that I was accused and detained for corruption.

    During my 8 month interrogation in the Vila Marista I was accused of many things, starting with revelations of state secrets, but never of corruption. After a further 7 months held with a host of convicted serious criminals and a handful of confused businessmen, most of whom were in a parallel predicament to mine, I was finally charged and sentenced for participating in various supposed breaches of financial regulations. The fact that the Central bank had specifically approved the transactions in question for 12 years, and that by their sentencing the court has in effect potentially criminalised every foreign business investing or trading in Cuba was considered irrelevant by the judges. I am thankful however that the judges finally determined that my sentence should not only have with a conditional release date a few days before the trial thus conveniently justifying my 15 months in prison, but, bizarrely was to be non-custodial. So my Kafkaesque experience at the sharp end of Cuban justice ended as abruptly as it began.

    I spent time with a number of foreign businessmen arrested during 2011 and 2012 from a variety of countries, although representatives from Brazil, Venezuela and China were conspicuous in the absence. Very few of my fellow sufferers have been reported in the press and there are many more in the system than is widely known. As they are all still either waiting for charges, trial or sentencing they will certainly not be talking to the press. Whilst a few of them are being charged with corruption many are not and the accusations range from sabotage, damage to the economy, tax avoidance and illegal economic activity. It is absolutely clear that the war against corruption may be a convenient political banner to hide behind and one that foreign governments and press will support. But the reasons for actively and aggressively pursuing foreign business are far more complicated. Why for example is the representative of Ericsson in jail for exactly the same activities as their Chinese competitor who is not? Why for example was one senior European engineer invited back to discuss a potential new project only to be arrested for paying technical workers five years ago when he was a temporary resident in Cuba?

    You interpret the economic liberalisation evident at street level as an indication of a desire for fundamental change. It is true that these reforms are welcomed, especially the dramatic increase in remittance flows that have injected fresh hard currency into the bottom strata of a perennially cash strapped economy. But until the law relating to foreign investment and commerce is revised and the security service changes its modus operandi for enforcing these laws, Cuba will remain extremely risky for non-bilateral foreign business and foreign executives should be under no illusion about the great personal risks they run if they chose to do business there. As businessmen emerge from their awful experience and tell their individual stories perhaps the real reasons for this concerted attack against business’s and individuals that have historically been friends of Cuba will become a bit clearer. In the meantime your intrepid reporters could usefully investigate the individuals and cliques who are benefitting from the market reorganisation and newly nationalised assets resulting from this “ war on corruption”.

    Yours faithfully, Stephen Purvis
    http://ww3.economist.com/blogs/americasview/2013/08/foreign-investment-cuba

  2. SO BOB Nick BBB (Blah, Blah, Blah)! YOU KNOW WHAT THEY SAY, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”!! GRACIAS AMIGO! BUT PLEASE, DONT WORRY! IF YOU CANNOT FIND THAT ARTICLE/ACADEMIC PAPER WITH HARD NUMBERS ABOUT HOW THE “EMBARGO” IS AFFECTING THE EVERYDAY CUBAN CITIZEN PLEASE DONT FEEL BAD! I KNOW YOU ARE NOT AS TOGETHER AS I AM! WE UNDERSTAND DEAR!

    ABC NEWS: Cuban Catholic Bishops Call for Political Reform – by Andrea Rodriguez
    Roman Catholic bishops in Cuba called for political reform in tandem with social and economic changes already under way, issuing their first joint pastoral letter in two decades that was presented to reporters Monday.

    The document from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba urged authorities to bring about a political opening that includes “the right to diversity with respect to thought, to creativity and to the search for truth.”

    “As has been happening with the economic aspect, we believe that in our Cuban reality, a renovation or updating of national legislation in the political order is essential,” reads the letter, titled “Hope Does Not Disappoint.”

    Jose Felix Perez, secretary of the Bishops’ Conference, said a copy was delivered to island officials and “it is hoped that the letter will be read with the same spirit with which it was written … constructively.”

    There was no immediate public reaction from the government, and authorities did not respond right away to a request for comment. Officials have repeatedly said that changing Cuba’s Communist political system is off the table.

    It was the first pastoral letter from the Bishops’ Conference since 1993’s “Love Awaits All,” which stirred controversy at the time for its criticism of the government.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/cuban-catholic-bishops-calls-political-reform-20270647

  3. The article stated that:

    Many foreign bosses routinely top up pay with bonuses and commissions, which Havana considers bribery.

    So some generous bosses top up the slave wages of Cubans, and this is considered bribery. Cubans are forced to live in the stone age. Sad, really sad.

  4. There are three lessons for foreign businessmen in Cuba:

    1. Do not bribe
    2. Do not even plan or consider paying bribes
    3. Report on those who bribe.

  5. Foreign business in Cuba: Beware the dangerous embrace
    Havana is at the same time attracting and terrifying entrepreneurs
    by Nancy Macdonald and Gabriela Perdomo on Wednesday, August 8, 2012 10:16am – 26 Comments
    VIEW IN CLEAN READING MODE »WHAT IS THIS ?
    Cuba risky business
    Tomas van Houtryve/VII
    Until this spring, Stephen Purvis had it all. The British architect, who’d helped launch the Saratoga, Cuba’s poshest hotel, was one of the more prominent figures in Havana’s business community. As chief operating officer of Coral Capital, one of Cuba’s biggest private investors, he was overseeing a planned $500-million resort in the sleepy fishing village of Guanabo. The Bellomonte resort, which would allow foreigners to buy Cuban property for the first time, was part of Havana’s ambitious, multi-billion-dollar plan to attract high-end tourists and badly needed foreign exchange. Everything he touched seemed to turn to gold. The musical Purvis produced in his spare time, Havana Rakatan, had a run at the Sydney Opera House last year before moving on to London’s West End. But in April, the 51-year-old was arrested on suspicion of corruption as he prepared to walk his kids to school in Havana.

    Purvis’s arrest could have been anticipated. Coral Capital’s British-born CEO, Amado Fakhre, has been held without charges ever since his arrest in a dawn raid last fall. The investment firm is being liquidated, and both men have faced questioning at Villa Marista, Cuba’s notorious counter-intelligence headquarters. They are not alone. Since last summer, dozens of senior Cuban managers and foreign executives, including two Canadians, have been jailed in an investigation that has shocked and terrified foreigners who do business in the country.

    Since replacing his brother Fidel as president in 2008, Raúl Castro has painted himself as a reformer, and Cuba as a place where foreign businesses can thrive. Over the last year, he has relaxed property rights, expanded land leases and licensed a broad, if random, list of businesses—everything from pizza joints to private gyms. And he’s endorsed joint venture golf courses, marinas and new manufacturing projects. Canadians are chief among those heeding Raúl’s call to do business with Havana. Hundreds have expressed interest in the Cuban market in the last year alone, according to Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service. Flattering reports in Canadian media have praised Raúl’s efforts. Yet they seem to overlook troubling signs that Cuba appears to be moving backwards.

    Raúl’s sweeping changes were meant to pave the way for massive foreign investment in Cuba. The country, which was forced to lay off 20 per cent of its public workforce last year, is barely as developed as Haiti, and will need an influx of foreign cash to stay afloat. There is urgency to the project. Time is running out for Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Cuba’s benefactor, who funds the country to the tune of $10 billion a year, says José Azel, a University of Miami research associate. At home, Chávez, who is sick with cancer, is also fighting off a tough challenge from Henrique Capriles in presidential elections slated for October. His successor will almost certainly cut Cuba’s generous aid package to deal with Venezuela’s own needs.

    So a strange incongruity exists in Cuba today: Havana is bending over backwards to attract foreign currency at the same time it is imprisoning some of its biggest Western investors. For all Cuba’s reforms, this Castro appears to be as intent on maintaining an iron grip on the country as the last one.

    Few are more keenly aware of the pitfalls of doing business in the new Cuba as a pair of Canadians sitting in jail in Havana. It has been more than a year since Sarkis Yacoubian, the president of Tri-Star Caribbean, a trading firm with headquarters in Nova Scotia, was detained in the Cuban capital. And September will be the one-year anniversary of the arrest of Cy Tokmakjian, the president of a trading company based in Concord, Ont. He and Yacoubian have both been imprisoned without charges. Their assets now belong to Cuba. No trial date has been announced.

    Both Yacoubian and Tokmakjian ran well-established businesses in Cuba, had years of experience in the country, and multi-million-dollar contracts with several government ministries. Yacoubian imported the presidential fleet of BMWs. Tokmakjian, who’d been in Cuba for more than 20 years and did $80 million in annual business there, had the rights to Hyundai and Suzuki, which are used by the country’s police.

    So far, Raúl has scared off more joint ventures than he has attracted, jeopardizing the investment Cuba needs to succeed. Spanish oil giant Repsol quit the country in May. Canada’s Pizza Nova, which had six Cuban locations, packed its bags, as did Telecom Italia. The country’s biggest citrus exporter, BM Group, backed by Israeli investors, is gone. A Chilean who set up one of Cuba’s first joint enterprises, a fruit juice company, fled after being charged with corruption last year. He was convicted in absentia. Shipping investors are pulling out, even as Cuba prepares to open a new terminal on the island’s north coast.

    Experts say Raúl’s crackdown is an attempt to reassert control. By targeting the biggest names in the business community, he’s sending a message, says Azel. “Raúl doesn’t want to be Gorbachev,” the Soviet statesman who brought down Communism in the former Soviet Union. “He wants to be the guy who makes socialism work.”

    Yet as detentions pile up it remains unclear what exactly the jailed Canadians and Britons have done, or what the regime means by clamping down on corruption. “Cuba’s version of what is legal and proper is different from the rest of the world,” says Ted Henken, president of the Washington-based Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy. Even sales commissions are viewed as corrupt, says Yoani Sánchez, a Havana-based journalist. Foreign companies can’t pay their Cuban employees any more than the standard wage, about $20 a month, says Sánchez—barely enough for two weeks’ living in poor conditions with a poor diet. Many foreign bosses routinely top up pay with bonuses and commissions, which Havana considers bribery. For years, says Henken, corruption was the grease that made wheels turns. “You got what you needed to live from what was thrown off the back of the truck.”

    It is not clear whether the detained Canadians are facing charges for salary top-ups, for example, or for legitimate corruption allegations. Canada’s Foreign Affairs department would only confirm that “consular services are being provided to two Canadian citizens detained in Cuba.” Executives at Tri-Star Caribbean and members of the Tokmakjian family declined comment, citing the “extremely sensitive” nature of the situation.

    Azel’s advice to potential Canadian investors? Stay away. “You’re defenceless. There’s no independent judiciary to adjudicate any kind of claim,” he says. “Doing business with Cuba is a very risky proposition.”

    So then why all the new resorts and planned golf courses? Why do so many Brits and Canadians take the personal and business risk? Because it’s widely believed that the days are numbered for the U.S. travel ban on Cuba, which has barred Americans from visiting the island for almost three decades. Predictions for tourism growth are off the charts—up to six million annual visitors, from two million today, says Gregory Biniowsky, a Canadian consultant who’s lived in Cuba for two decades. Cuba’s boosters believe the country, with its vast, undeveloped white sand beaches, just 45 minutes by plane from Florida, could come to rival Jamaica or the Dominican Republic as a tourist draw. “It’s just a matter of time before things boom here,” says Biniowsky. Five billion barrels of oil lie under Cuba’s waters, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. To some, getting in on the ground floor is worth the risk. But foreign investors who lose sight of the dangers could find themselves in serious trouble.

  6. Humby The Scraper,

    There are problems with your argument (or lack of one).
    1. If you are actually in the camp which represents a tiny sub-section of world opinion and wish for the blockade/embargo to continue then try laying out your reasoning for this, rather than constantly laying out other peoples’ reasoning (or lack of reasoning).
    2. Simple Question: If the embargo is ineffectual (or swiss cheese-like as you state) then what is the point in its continuance other than to isolate USA (and its little hugga mugga buddy, Israel, which incidentally has large investments in Cuba).
    3. By wishing for the embargos continuance you go directly against the wishes of, amongst others, Yoani Sanchez and Roberto Carcásses.
    4. Your reasoning is an empty barrel but you are still trying to scrape it.

    Careful Humby The Scraper….
    You’re barrel is empty and you’re going to scrape a hole in the bottom of it…
    Whats the use of an empty barrel with a hole in the bottom of it???

    No use at all Humby….

  7. BOB Nick! DID YOU CHECK OUT ALL THE FOOTNOTE REFERENCES ON THAT ARTICLE? CAN YOU PROVIDE SOMETHING SIMILAR TO SUPPORT YOUR ANTI “EMBARGO” ARGUMENT?? IN THE MEANTIME CAN YOU ESPLAIN THIS IF THERE REALLY IS AN “EMBARGO”?? LOOKS LIKE SWISS CHEESE WITH ALL THE LOOPHOLES, DOESNT IT BOB Nick?

    U.S.-CUBA TRADE AND ECONOMIC COUNCIL, INC.
    ECONOMIC EYE ON CUBA- February 2012 – Report For Calendar Year 2011
    2011-2001 U.S. EXPORT STATISTICS FOR CUBA

    The following is the data for exports from the United States to the Republic of Cuba relating to the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSRA) of 2000, which re-authorized the direct commercial (on a cash basis) export of food products (including branded food products) and agricultural products (commodities) from the United States to the Republic of Cuba, irrespective of purpose. The TSRA does not include healthcare products, which remain authorized by the Cuban Democracy Act (CDA) of 1992.

    The data represents the U.S. Dollar value of product exported from the United States to the Republic of Cuba under the auspice of TSRA. The data does not include transportation charges, bank charges, or other costs associated with exports from the United States to the Republic of Cuba. The government of the Republic of Cuba reports data that, according to the government of the Republic of Cuba, includes transportation charges, bank charges, and other costs. However, the government of the Republic of Cuba has not provided verifiable data. The use of trade data reported by the government of the Republic of Cuba is suspect. The government of the Republic of Cuba has been asked to provide verifiable data, but has not.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE REPORT!

    http://www.cubatrade.org/CubaExportStats.pdf

  8. Nick! GIVEN YOUR KNACK FOR INTELLIGENT RESPONSES, I WILL CALL YOU BOB (Bottom Of Barrel) Nick!

    THAT’S WHAT YOU GET WHEN YOU DO BUSINESS WITH THE CASTROFASCSTIST OLIGARCHY MAFIA!
    MIAMI HERALD: Canadian golf project in Cuba hits a snag – by Juan Tamayo
    A Canadian real estate company planning a golf resort in Cuba has filed a $25.5million suit against the PGA of America in Palm Beach County, alleging that the group blocked its right to use the valuable brand on the island.

    The firm, 360 Vox Corp., formerly Leisure Canada, claims it lost $20 million in anticipated profits, $5.5 million in feasibility studies, the $80,000 licensing fee it paid to the British-based PGA Ltd (PGAL), and other expenses.

    Leisure Canada was one of 16 foreign companies that eagerly rushed to propose golf and marina resorts in Cuba after the government announced that it wanted to expand the island’s tourist offerings. None has started construction to date.

    The lawsuit alleges that PGA of America, which represents teaching professionals and is not linked to the PGA Tour, pushed PGAL to cancel the license because of criticism, including from the blog Capitol Hill Cubans.

    Mauricio Claver-Carone, of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee and who runs the Capitol Hill Cubans blog, wrote Friday that Leisure Canada has been talking about building golf resorts in Cuba since 1999 but has never begun construction.

    “So why doesn’t Leisure Canada … sue the Castro regime?” he wrote. “Do business with a bloody dictatorship, and then seek relief in the good ol’ democratic U.S.A. when you get scammed.”

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/09/15/3629543/canadian-golf-project-in-cuba.html

  9. @Humberto writes:
    PEOPLE IN CUBA CAN ONLY EXPRESS THEMSELVES AS LONG AS THEY WHISPER IN EACH OTHER’S EARS???

    Not really.
    They can wear yellow ribbons with political meaning or carry huge banners on the 1st of May parade

  10. I wonder why the fact that Roberto was contributing to an event calling for the release of the anti-terrorist Cuban Five (four now) is only included as a ‘translator’s note’,
    I also wonder why this fact does not seem to be pointed out on the Spanish page of this blog.

  11. Humby writes this:
    ‘Marabu DEAR! CAN YOU PROVIDE A STUDY OR ACADEMIC PAPER WITH FOOTNOTES AS REFERENCES ON HOW THE BAD OLD “EMBARGO” HURTS THE EVERYDAY CUBAN CITIZEN? I KEEP ASKING FOR SUCH DOCUMENTATION FOR THE PAST YEARS ON THIS BLOG COMMENT SECTION AND ALL I GET IS SOME UN STATEMENT’

    Then he tries to back this up with an article called ‘Lift the Cuba Embargo ?’ in which someone who supports the embargo says that this embargo has no effect.
    If this author thinks the embargo has no effect, then why does he support it in the face of overwhelming democratic support throughout the world for its being lifted.??

    Sorry Humby old stick, but here you are making even less sense than usual and you’re backing up your viewpoint with an article by someone making even less sense than you.

    This represents a dip in form for you Humby.
    This is very poor stuff in comparison to your ‘phat’ copy and paste a couple of days ago….
    …..now that was a stroke of real genuine genius.

  12. Marabu! FROM NOW ON I WILL REFER TO YOU BY YOUR PET NAME, BOB (Bottom Of Barrel) Marabu!

    SO BOB Marabu! PEOPLE IN CUBA CAN ONLY EXPRESS THEMSELVES AS LONG AS THEY WHISPER IN EACH OTHER’S EARS??? I JUST WANT TO BE CLEAR ON YOUR TAKE ON THIS ISSUE DEAR!

  13. Marabu? Really?

    I am a strong supporter of the censorship in any country if (1) it serves the interests of the nation and (2) is made the smart way. I know too little at the moment to judge this particular case.

    You’re missing more marbles than I thought. I suppose the dictator in North Korea thinks that his censorship serves the interest of the nation.

  14. Hallo Humberto, happy to answer you questions:

    WHAT ABOUT THE SELF-BLOCKADE BY THE CASTROFASCISTS AGAINST THE CUBAN PEOPLE??
    There cannot be any self-blockade by castrofascists because there are no castrofascists. The singer in Havana did not referer to castrofascist either.

    AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS CENSORSHIP BY THE CASTRO BROTHERS AGAINST ROBERTICO CARCASSES??
    I am a strong supporter of the censorship in any country if (1) it serves the interests of the nation and (2) is made the smart way. I know too little at the moment to judge this particular case.

    DONT YOU THINK HE HAS A RIGHT TO EXPRESS HIMSELF???
    In private – yes. In public – see my answer to the previous question.

  15. Marabu DEAR! CAN YOU PROVIDE A STUDY OR ACADEMIC PAPER WITH FOOTNOTES AS REFERENCES ON HOW THE BAD OLD “EMBARGO” HURTS THE EVERYDAY CUBAN CITIZEN? I KEEP ASKING FOR SUCH DOCUMENTATION FOR THE PAST YEARS ON THIS BLOG COMMENT SECTION AND ALL I GET IS SOME UN STATEMENT

    Lift the Cuba Embargo ? WHAT EMBARGO! By Humberto (Bert) Corzo*

    In this article I analyze the arguments of lifting the Cuba embargo, which are more rhetorical than real, answering each one of the specific considerations of those that support the end of it.

    EFFECT OF THE EMBARGO

    The United States Government has always exempted from the embargo medicine and humanitarian supplies to the Cuban people, as long as such aid is distributed by independent non-governmental organizations (NGO) such as the Catholic Church and international organizations such as Pastors for Peace.

    Since 1992, the U.S. has approved 36 of 38 license requests for commercial sales of medicines and medical equipment to Cuba. During the period from 1993 to 1996, the U.S. has licensed over $150 million in humanitarian assistance, more than the total worldwide foreign aid received by Cuba in those years. This total does not include the millions of dollars in medicine and food sent to Cuba in the form of “care packages” from relatives living in the U.S. [1]

    In the year 2000 the Department of Commerce approved the export to Cuba of approximately $550 million in medicines, medical equipment, cash remittances, gift parcels and food (cash remittances and gift parcels account for about 75% of the total amount). The United States government’s embargo has had little effect on the Cuban economy, since it only represents 5 % of Cuba’s commerce with the rest of the world. The embargo only affects the American companies and their subsidiaries. The rest of the countries, 180 since the last count in 2007, are free to conduct business with Cuba and are doing so, as confirmed by imports surpassing $13.78 billions during 2007 [2]. In reality there is not such embargo since in the year 2000 the United States Congress lifted the prohibition of the sale of agricultural products and medicines to Cuba, thereby allowing Castro’s regime to buy everything it needs by paying in cash.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ACADEMIC PAPER WITH FOOTNOTES & EVERYTHING!

    http://www.cubanet.org/CNews/y09/abril09/09_O_3.html

  16. HEY Marabu!! WHAT ABOUT THE SELF-BLOCKADE BY THE CASTROFASCISTS AGAINST THE CUBAN PEOPLE?? AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS CENSORSHIP BY THE CASTRO BROTHERS AGAINST ROBERTICO CARCASSES?? DONT YOU THINK HE HAS A RIGHT TO EXPRESS HIMSELF??? ANXIOUSLY WAITING YOUR “RESPONSE”! AND DONT HIT YOUR HEAD ON THE BOTTOM OF THAT BARREL DEAR!!

    CARTA DE Roberto Carcassés a Harold Gramatges – Presidente de la Asociación de Músicos de la UNEAC
    Ciudad de La Habana – 17 de Diciembre de 2007

    LETTER BY Roberto Carcassés to Harold Gramatges – President of the Association of Musicians UNEAC
    Havana – December 17, 2007
    http://www.penultimosdias.com/2007/12/23/carta-abierta-de-robertico-carcasses-a-harold-gratmages-presidente-de-la-asociacion-de-musicos-de-la-uneac/

  17. Do some research before you make a fool out of yourself. Yoani, in her own words, has spoken out against the blockade before.

  18. Well, if even Yoani has the courage to copy Carcásses words “End the blockade” then maybe she could expect a twitt from President Obama or from Senator Rubio in this matter? Who knows?

    Allghight, these are not Yoani’s original words, she is too smart to embarass her northern allies, but yet… surprise, surprise….

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