Operation Cleansing

Infanta and Vapor Streets, eight at night. The scaffolding creaks under the weight of its occupants. The area is dark, but there are still two painters passing their brushes over the dirty balconies, the facades, the tall columns facing the avenue. Time is short, the 2nd Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) will start in just a few hours and everything should be ready for the guests. The streets where the presidential caravans will pass will be touched up, the asphalt addressed, the potholes and poverty hidden.  The real Havana is disguised under another stage-set city, as if the dirt — accumulated for decades — was covered by a colorful and ephemeral tapestry.

Then came the “human cleansing.” The first signs of one more stage set being erected comes via our cellphones. Calls are lost into nothingness, text messages don’t reach their destinations, nervous busy signals respond to attempts to communicate with an activist. Then comes the second phase, the physical. The corners of certain streets teem with supposed couples who don’t talk, men in checked shirts nervously touching their concealed earphones, neighbors set to guard the doors of those from whom, yesterday, they asked to borrow a little salt. The whole society is full of whispers, watchful and fear-filled eyes, a huge dose of fear. The city is tense, trembling, on alert: the CELAC Summit has started.

The last phase brings detentions, threats and home arrests. Meanwhile, on TV the official announcers smile, comment on the press conferences and carry their cameras to the stairs of dozens of airplanes. There are red carpets, polished floors, tree ferns in the Palace of the Revolution, toasts, family photos, traffic diversions, police every ten yards, bodyguards, accredited press, talk of openings, people threatened, dungeons filled, friends whose whereabouts are unknown. Not even the Ñico López refinery is allowed to let its dirty smoke leave the chimney. The retouched postcard is ready… but it lacks life.

Then, then everything happens. Every president and every foreign minister returns to their country. The humidity and grime push through the fine layer of paint on the facades. The neighbors who participated in the operation return to their boredom, and the officials of #OperaciónLimpieza — Operation Cleansing — are rewarded with all-inclusive hotels. The plants installed for the openings dry up for lack of water. Everything returns to normal or to the absolute lack of normality that characterizes Cuban life.

The fake moment has ended. Goodby to the Second CELAC Summit.


89 thoughts on “Operation Cleansing

  1. KNIGHT CENTER FOR JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS: Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez to open a new digital newspaper in the island – by Samantha Badgen

    Prominent blogger Yoani Sánchez said she plans to launch a digital newspaper in her native Cuba. The announcement took place on Jan. 31 during the Hay Festival, in the Colombian city of Cartagena.

    Sánchez is a dissident blogger who gained prominence in 2008 with her blog “Generation Y” where she often writes about the Cuban government and life in the island.

    “I want to go from having a personal project, like my blog … to having a collective and responsible project, with a focus on helping Cuban society in their transition, a transition without violence, without revenge, where the people are informed enough to be able to decide,” Sánchez said during a debate at the festival, according to El Nuevo Herald.

    She added that she is not looking to create an opposition newspaper, but a outlet that creates consciousness through information and offers hard news as well as opinion columns.

    According to El Nuevo Herald, the blogger said “this is the best and worst moment to create an independent medium in Cuba.” The worst because the medium will be illegal on the island, and the best because “growing in illegality always gives publications a special preparation.”




    THE TORONTO STAR: Toronto mom barred from leaving Cuba ahead of toddler’s funeral – Justine Davis is trying to get home for her 3-year-old son Cameron’s funeral in Toronto after a crash in Cuba took his life. Officials have been blocking her departure for six weeks. – by Jennifer Pagliaro

    Justine Davis has already written her final words to her 3-year-old son ahead of his funeral in Toronto this weekend.

    But after being barred from leaving Havana, Cuba, for six weeks while police investigate the vehicle crash that killed her toddler, Cameron, she may not get that chance to say goodbye.

    “There’s just so many unknowns,” Richard said. “I believe at this point it’s really out of the embassy’s hands.”

    On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ian Trites said Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular) Lynne Yelich had “personally appealed to senior Cuban officials.”

    “Our thoughts are with the mother of the Canadian child who passed away in Cuba,” Trites wrote.

    The laws in Cuba, where traffic accidents are treated as crimes and victims accused as primary suspects, continue to prevent foreigners from returning home, sometimes for months.

    They pair suited up with helmets, Cameron seated in front of Davis, and headed out on the road. But only five minutes into their drive, they were struck by an industrial-sized truck and thrown from the scooter.

    “The people in the truck didn’t get out and assist; they actually got out and took pictures,” Hussey said.

    Davis inched across the road, crawling towards her small boy. She couldn’t tell how badly he was hurt.

    Someone finally called for help, but when emergency workers arrived Davis and her son were separated.

    The woman was airlifted off the island to a hospital in Havana.

    “She kept asking where he was and nobody would give her any information. They just kept saying he was at the hospital, but wouldn’t say where,” Hussey said.

    By the next day, Christmas Eve, Davis finally got through to the Canadian embassy in Cuba.

    A staff member told her Cameron had not survived, that he had died at the scene of the accident.



  3. CANADA FREE PRESS: NGOs Urge UN Action as Cuba Arrests Top Dissident Ahead of Geneva Testimony
    GENEVA, – A coalition of 20 human rights groups organizing the upcoming Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy expressed grave concern at the Cuban government’s arrest today of Antunez, one of the conference’s invited speakers, apparently to prevent or deter his testimony at the civil society forum to be held on Feb. 25,/th next to the UN Human Rights Council. For details from Directorio, a Geneva Summit partner, click here.
    Regarded as Cuba’s Nelson Mandela, Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as “Antúnez”, was released in 2007 after 17 years in prison. His release had been requested by the EU and the Pope.

    Today, however, police brutally arrested both Antunez and his wife, Yris Pérez Aguilera.

    “We call on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to strongly condemn Cuba’s repression of a human rights activist who is planning to participate in a UN-related event,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based rights group UN Watch, one of the organizers of the Feb. 25th Geneva Summit.

    “As a recently-elected member of the UN Human Rights Council, Cuba has a special obligation to uphold the highest human rights standards, and we call on the UN to hold Havana to account. Antunez must be released immediately and be permitted to address the Geneva Summit, and his wife must also be set free without delay.”
    Antunez sharply criticized the Havana regime in a recent U.S. press conference reported in the Miami Herald.

    The scheduled appearance of Antunez at the Geneva Summit, together with other former political prisoners from around the world, will coincide with the controversial arrival in Geneva of delegations from China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia, as the widely-criticized regimes take their seats as newly elected members of the 47-nation UNHRC.

  4. Just the facts Nick. Telling the truth is not abuse. I’m sorry if facts disturb you, but a fact is not an insult.

    You fail to address the facts, provide facts of your own, or make any point.

    Just “bad ole USA” chant again. Not on topic Nick. This blog is about dictatorship Cuba.

  5. Mr Observer,
    For the umpteenth time you rant out some abuse…
    This time against the BBC and Latin America as a whole.
    When this is challenged by common sense, you just go off on another rant.
    You’re on a merry-go-round of your own making.

  6. Hey Humby,
    You can use that ‘Bad Old USA’ comment again if you wish…
    It was yourself who introduced the subject of Al Jazeera not me.
    When this organisation tried to report on the truth of a situation the USA blew them away.
    If you wish to criticise Cuba’s attitude towards Al Jazeera without mentioning the historically far worse attitude of the USA towards them, then that’s up to you.

    However anybody with a capacity for objectivity would call this ‘hypocrisy’.

  7. Aussie Sheila,

    I get really dizzy on this merry-go-round too. I think I’ll get too dizzy to continue, just like all the other reasonable posters who have come and gone.

    Like you said, the fact of the Castro dictatorship is very elementary. So elementary it can’t be defended without going in circles.

  8. Nick, what you said in your previous post is so elementary a 2 year old would get it. But it seems everyone has to keep reminding Nick. I’ve been reading this website for a few years and the same argument with silly people like Nick just keep going around in circles. Why waste time? I think Nick just likes practising debating skills. He can’t really believe what he writes. Democracy and freedom will win out and the Nicks of this world will be left still singing the Internacionale and wearing Che t-shrts. Yawn.

  9. Neutral Observer, what you said in your previous post is so elementary a 2 year old would get it. But it seems that everyone has to keep arguing with Nick and reminding him. I’ve been reading this website for a few years now and it seems that it’s just a constant counter attack with idiots like Nick and few before him like Cuba Libre and Damir. (What happened to them by the way?) Why does anyone bother being in the debate? Waste of time. Democracy and freedom will eventually win out and the Nicks of this world will be left still singing the Internacionale and wearing Che t-shirts. Yawn.

  10. Again, as I repeat again, just like hundreds of times before, Castro is not the Cuban people.

    Maduro is not the Venezuelan people.

    Nick, I am against Adolf Hitler. Tojo and Mao, but I like most German and Japanese and Chinese people.

    Criticizing Castro is not insulting the Cuban people.

    Just the opposite. Most Cubans want to get rid of Castro. They need our moral support.

    They like it when a free human being insults Castro. It gives them hope.

  11. Just the facts Nick. What I said about the BBC is true.

    Of all the time you spent in Cuba, you should have talked to a few journalists.

    Yes Nick, I have spoken to journalists who work there.

    Yes, Castro actually tells them what to write. They are actually told what words they can use and what words they cannot use, and the BBC promises Castro its reporters will follow the rules before they are allowed in the country.

    Did you know that, Nick? Not very neutral reporting, if you ask me.

    About the other stuff, Castro the totalitarian dictator, over 95% of Cubans agree with me, so I think my assessment of the facts is very accurate.

  12. VIDEO: Cuban Doctors Defection Comes at a Price – The Wall Street Journal’s Joel Millman reports on Cuba’s program of sending doctors abroad as missionaries. The video tells the story of one Cuban doctor working in Gambia who took nine months to escape and now lives in Florida. His wife and child are still in Cuba and she lost her job at a hospital as a result of being blacklisted for five years because of his defection. Another downside is that, without their medical records and certifications (held by the Cuban government), Cuban doctors in the United States can only work as nurses or surgical assistants. And even though Cuba lets 20,000 people emigrate annually, doctors rarely get permission to leave. Still, almost 1,600 doctors have defected since 2006 as a result of: Cuba has been sending medical “brigades” to foreign countries since 1973, helping it to win friends abroad, to back “revolutionary” regimes in places like Ethiopia, Angola, and Nicaragua, and perhaps most importantly, to earn hard currency. Communist Party newspaper Granma reported in June that Cuba had 37,041 doctors and other health workers in 77 countries. Estimates of what Cuba earns from its medical teams—revenue that Cuba’s central bank counts as “exports of services”—vary widely, running to as much as $8 billion a year. Many Cubans complain that the brigades have undermined Cuba’s ability to maintain a high standard of health care at home


  13. Nick, If you’re alluding to the something along the lines that Cuba is not a basket case and Australia doesn’t have one of the best living standards in the world, then yes I do think you should shut up right there. Or go and start a London riot and demolish half the city. By the way, you can’t play cricket either.



    THE ECONOMIST: The party is over – Latin America’s weakest economies are reaching breaking-point.
    WHEN the euro crisis was at its height it became commonplace for struggling European economies to insist that they were not outliers like Greece. Whatever their woes, they declared, Greece’s were in a class of their own. In Latin America, by contrast, the unwanted title of outlier has two contenders: Argentina and Venezuela.

    Both have been living high on the hog for years, blithely dishing out the proceeds of an unrepeatable commodities boom (oil in Venezuela; soya in Argentina). Both have been using a mix of central-bank interventions and administrative controls to keep overvalued exchange rates from falling and inflation from rising. Both now face a come-uppance.

    High inflation is a shared problem. Argentina’s rate, propelled higher by loose monetary and fiscal policies, is unofficially put at 28%. Argentina’s official exchange rate is overvalued as a result, fetching 70% more dollars per peso than the informal “blue” rate in mid-January. Venezuela’s prices are rising faster still. Last year, during an awkward political transition after the death of Hugo Chávez to the presidency of Nicolás Maduro (pictured with Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the Argentine president), the Central Bank stepped up money-printing to finance public spending, pushing inflation to 56.2%. A dollar fetches 75-80 bolívares on the black market, up to seven times the official rate.



  15. Mr Observer,
    So you like to suggest that I praise people for ‘beating little old ladies’???
    That’s something of an insult.
    It seems that your default position is always one of spitting out insults to me, to the BBC, to Latin Americans and to anyone else.
    Anyone who does not concur with your one-eyed viewpoints regarding the subject of Cuba is, in your opinion, a legitimate target for your lame-assed insults ??
    Is this is the best you can come up with??
    I shall leave it at that, in an attempt to remain civil.

  16. Aussie Sheila??????
    Well Hello and welcome.
    and now…
    ……….’do please shut up’.
    So the nation of Cuba is a basket case yeah???
    In comparison to where???????

    Go kill some sharks….
    and then shut up.

  17. But Nick, I just stick to facts. No complex around here.

    The only thing I am superior to is a liar and a fascist dictator.

    I don’t go around beating little old ladies because they disagree with me, and I don’t praise Castro for doing so.

    And no matter how polite I am, you reply with insults. We can see your “let’s be civil” routine is all a charade.

    I agree with Aussie Sheila, none of your insults or lies will change the fact of Cuba.

    You say you have spent a good part of your life in Cuba, but you seem to know so little about how anything works there.

    How can this be?

  18. Nick, do please shut up. Nothing you say (which is all rubbish) is going to change the fact that Cuba is a basket case and the government is ridiculous. Just go and sit in you pub in old blighty and enjoy the privileges you have and hope that one day they have the same in Cuba.

  19. Mr Observer,
    Your most recent post only serves to reinforce my statement that you are suffering from
    ‘North American Superiority Complex Syndrome’

    But hey don’t you worry bout it…
    People from North America have been suffering from this syndrome for decades…..
    …..if not decades then centuries?????

  20. And Humby my dear old friend…..

    How’s your luck with chasing down some of those Neo-Nazi enclaves in your own home state???

    I flagged it up some weeks ago that YOUR STATE has the fourth most amount of active fascist groups in the union…..
    and I’m yet to hear an update from you on how the good fight against fascism down your way is going………..


    …or perhaps its a case of:

    ‘these fascists are ok….
    coz they’re our fascists’ ?????

  21. Hi Humby!,
    It is interesting that writing from the USA you find the time to criticize Cuba’s attitude towards Al Jazeera….
    I would have thought it far more prescient that you ascertain from your own government why they authorised strikes on:

    a) Al Jazeera press office in Kabul 2001.
    b) Al Jazeera press office in Baghdad 2003.

    Call your local ‘democratic’ representative and get back to me with a reasoning for these two brave military actions huh????


    TORONTO SUN: Toronto mom trapped in Cuba after tot’s tragic death – by Jenny Yuen

    TORONTO – All Justine Davis wants is to come home to Toronto so she can bury her three-year-old son.

    She has been stuck for six weeks in a Cuban hospital following a horrific traffic mishap which killed her son, Cameron, just outside the Cayo Largo resort they were staying at over the Christmas holidays.

    A source confirmed Tuesday that Cuban authorities are conducting an investigation into the crash involving Davis’s gas-powered rental scooter and a truck.

    However, Davis complained that while authorities have not laid any charges, they forbid her to leave Cuba to attend her son’s funeral on Saturday.

    She’s hoping the Canadian government will intervene on her behalf.

    “They won’t let me go,” Davis, who’s in her 20s, said in a telephone interview from her hospital room at Clinica Cira Garcia in Havana.

    “I just don’t know what more they want from me. As for the immigration release — nobody can tell me anything … They’re deciding whether they want to charge me or release me. I’ve prepared a eulogy for him and it’s going to be really psychologically damaging to miss his funeral.”

    She told how the crash took place Dec. 23 on a two-lane road that was partially paved. Davis said she rented a Jeep to take her child sight-seeing, but upon returning it early, the owner of the CubaCar rental company suggested she use up excess time by riding a scooter.


  23. HERE YOU GO Nick DEAR!

    Al Jazeera reporter Moutaz Al Qaissia and Cuban media dogs in a Twitter’s brawl – February 11, 2012

    Recently, an Al Jazeera reporter has been caught by Cuban agents in Twitter in a virtual brawl, where Cuban officials, as usual, had insulted them in a row.

    Moutaz Al Qaissia is working in Cuba as a reporter to Al Jazeera in Arabic because Castro’s regime doesn’t allow anybody of that news agency who reports in English. But everything started when the journalist, doing what a regular journalist does everywhere [Oh, boy, he must have known Cuba is in another planet], in this case covering the fleet of Cuban Exiles Fireworks fleet from Havana Seashore. Big mistake for him… according to Havana.
    Since then, Moutaz Al Qaissia has been accused of Capital Punishment against the regime, being the last of being the one who contact the prominent blogger Yoani Sanchez for an interview with Al Jazeera, which he had refused to admit.
    Beyond all this, the quintessence here is the fact that Cuba’s pack of hounds in Twitter has been threatening him of everything, reaching even the point where some has tweeted that he must be expelled from Havana for… insults.

  24. HERE YOU GO Nick DEAR!

    Al Jazeera reporter Moutaz Al Qaissia and Cuban media dogs in a Twitter’s brawl – February 11, 2012

    Recently, an Al Jazeera reporter has been caught by Cuban agents in Twitter in a virtual brawl, where Cuban officials, as usual, had insulted them in a row.

    Moutaz Al Qaissia is working in Cuba as a reporter to Al Jazeera in Arabic because Castro’s regime doesn’t allow anybody of that news agency who reports in English. But everything started when the journalist, doing what a regular journalist does everywhere [Oh, boy, he must have known Cuba is in another planet], in this case covering the fleet of Cuban Exiles Fireworks fleet from Havana Seashore. Big mistake for him… according to Havana.
    Since then, Moutaz Al Qaissia has been accused of Capital Punishment against the regime, being the last of being the one who contact the prominent blogger Yoani Sanchez for an interview with Al Jazeera, which he had refused to admit.
    Beyond all this, the quintessence here is the fact that Cuba’s pack of hounds in Twitter has been threatening him of everything, reaching even the point where some has tweeted that he must be expelled from Havana for… insults.



    REUTERS: Cuban doctor defects in Brazil over pay, plans to seek asylum – by Anthony Boadle
    A Cuban doctor working in Brazil has sought political asylum in the office of a conservative party complaining that Cuba’s communist government takes too big a slice of her pay, a party official said on Wednesday.

    Ramona Rodriguez, 51, entered the office of the center-right Democratas party leadership in the lower chamber of Brazil’s Congress on Tuesday afternoon and slept the night on a sofa, the official said.

    Rodriguez is one of 7,400 Cubans in Brazil who work in a program that hires foreign doctors to attend the sick in slums and remote rural locations unattended by Brazilian physicians.

    Under an agreement signed last year with Cuba through the Pan-American Health Organization, or PAHO, the Cubans get only one fifth of the 10,000 reais ($4,100) a month that Brazil pays each physician in the program. The rest goes to the Cuban state.

    The Cubans get paid 800 reais in Brazil and 1,200 reais are deposited in an account in Cuba for their families who are not allowed to accompany them to Brazil.

    Rodriguez arrived in Brazil in October and was working in Pacajá, in the Amazon state of Pará, until she took off on the weekend and made her way to the Brazilian capital. She told Brazilian media she felt cheated.

    Lawmaker Ronaldo Caiado, leader of Democratas in the lower house, said Rodriguez could stay in his office in Congress until Brazil’s leftist government agreed to grant her asylum.

    Waving a copy of the PAHO contract in the air, Caiado accused President Dilma Rousseff’s government of exploiting the Cuban doctors like “slave labor” in a speech to the chamber.

  26. Yes Nick, my observations are neutral and truthful.

    I did not slander Latin America.

    Read carefully, I mentioned the dictators and politicians, not the people.

    I also mentioned other “stick up for yourself” groups, to use your words. Did not say they were exactly alike.

    The point is not all “stick up for yourself” groups are good. Some are very evil.

    CELAC is an Orwellian exercise in chauvinism and sabre-rattling. They are not sticking up for the Latin American people, just for a few very corrupt dictators.

    CELAC is sticking it TO the Latin American people.

    As for any parallels you wish to draw, Maduro is supported by Venezuela’s most violent gangs and drug cartels, he uses them to terrorize the population and keep him in power. Ditto for the dictator of Nicaragua.

    And the Castro brothers are the most totalitarian dictators in Latin American history.

    As for the BBC, they are warned about what to write before they are accredited. All the big press outfits have to strike deals with Castro. Did you know that Nick?

    If a foreign reporter is too critical, he is expelled, sometimes jailed. If a Cuban reporter is too critical, he is arrested, jailed or killed.

    Just the facts, Nick. Let’s stick to the facts, not insults.

  27. So Mr Observer,
    Always speak the truth then huh???
    Rather than touching on any truths, in your anger you manage to slur and denigrate just about anyone and everyone:
    In your last two posts your scattergun insults have caught such diverse targets as the whole of Latin America and the BBC.
    Are you seriously making a comparison between Latin American Leaders and Al Qaeda or ‘The Axis Powers’???
    Do you really think that CELAC has anything in common with a ‘Mexican Drug Cartel’.
    I seem to detect a whiff of centuries-old Northern American superiority complex going on here.

    And exactly who or what do you think BBC’s correspondent in Cuba parrots ??
    Or by this do you mean that Ms Rainsford’s observations are in fact neutral and therefore do not correspond with the apparent total lack of neutrality coming from your perspective ???
    The fact that both Humby and myself feel able to post various of her different reports would appear to suggest a certain degree of neutrality to anyone capable of a little objectivity.

    Librar a Gorki Águila de absurdos cargos y dejarlo en libertad.- Free Gorki Agulia of the absurde charges and leave him in peace!
    On Saturday, September 30th police officers arrested Gorki Aguila. He has been suffering from epilepsy since he was a child and had with him two pills of the medication for his disease.
    He has documents which prove that those medications were prescribed by a Mexican doctor. The authorities want to bring him to trial for the possession of controlled drugs in Cuba.
    The idea of silencing a man whose only crime is free expression and writing songs which lyrics are against the government is savage and unacceptable.
    Hereby I call Maria Esther Reus Gonzalez, the Minister of Justice in Cuba to withdraw those absurd charges against Gorki Luis Aguila Carrasco and return him his freedom. I demand from Cuban authorities the respect of Gorki’s right to treat hi disease and his basic human rights.


  29. YOUTUBE: Arrest of Pastor Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso on January 25th

    CHRISTIAN SOLIDARITY WORLDWIDE (CSW): Cuban Pastor Threatened and Arrested – Posted: 28 Jan 2014 06:34 PM PST
    CUBA: Pastor Lleonart Barroso under house arrest following detention Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, a Baptist pastor, was arrested and detained by political police and state security agents in central Cuba on 25 January. He was returned to his home later that night and put under house arrest. Political police surrounded the home of Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Taguayabon, in the early hours of 25 January. His wife, Yoaxis Marcheco Suarez, was forcibly stopped by security services when she attempted to leave the house with their two young daughters to warn Reverend Lleonart Barroso, who was not home at the time. He was arrested in front of his family in the street as he returned home. Reverend Lleonart Barroso was held incommunicado for most of the day. He was returned home late in the evening and put under house arrest. During his detention, prints were taken of his fingers and toes, a scent sample was taken and the pastor was forced to give DNA samples from his nails and teeth. State security agents also attempted to intimidate him into signing an Official Warning or ‘Advertencia Oficial’, which is frequently used in the Cuban court system as evidence in future arrests. Reverend Lleonart Barroso refused to do so.

    Since his return home, two armed political police officers are standing guard outside the family house which is adjacent to the church. According to the pastor’s sister, Mirka Pena, the arrest of Reverend Lleonart Barroso is part of a larger crackdown on political dissidents across the country, including well known activists such as Dr Oscar Elias Biscet and Sakharov prize winner Guillermo Fariñas, in anticipation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit, due to take place this week in Cuba.

  30. Nick,

    What do you mean by neutral? I assume you mean speak the truth? I always speak the truth.

    I know the BBC has no reporters in Cuba, only parrots.

    I really doubt Castro’s parrots are neutral and care about the truth.

    They care about staying in the country. Being a “reporter” in Cuba is the ultimate no-show job.

    The only real reporters in Cuba are constantly being arrested and jailed.

  31. Mr Observer,
    Your most recent comment is…
    lets say, somewhat less than neutral.
    Definitely somewhat less neutral than the BBC report from this conference.


    “Sanchez said that from his 200-peso monthly pension — eight U.S. dollars — after working 30 years for the government communications monopoly, he has to pay 30 to 40 pesos for electricity and 10 to 20 for telephone services.He must also pay the government 65 pesos a month for the television set and refrigerator he was forced to buy in 2005 as part of Fidel Castro’s campaign to reduce energy consumption by requiring all homes to replace their old appliances with more-efficient versions.”

    MIAMI HERALD: Cuba’s elders struggle daily with poverty – Despite — or because of — economic reforms introduced by Cuban leader Raúl Castro, the country’s elderly have trouble paying for basic necessities.- by Juan Tamayo

    Retired Havana radiologist Lidia Lima says her $14 pension lasts her for only 20 days out of every month. But at the age of 78, she “can’t just invent” a way of joining the growing ranks of Cuba’s private businesses to earn a few extra pesos.

    Maximiliano Sánchez, 69, says his pension of $8 per month allows him only “to survive, not to live.” But the retired telegrapher adds that heart and vision illnesses have left him too infirm to own or work at one of the new businesses.

    But the same reforms are hammering the estimated 1.6 million retirees, already suffering under historically meager pensions and now pummeled by rising prices in the newly capitalist parts of the economy and shrinking government subsidies on the staples they desperately need.

    “The elderly are the most vulnerable sector of the Raúl Castro economic reforms,” said Dagoberto Valdés, a lay Catholic activist in the western province of Pinar del Rio who publishes the digital magazine Convivencia — Fellowship.

    Cubans say they see evidence of the pensioners’ growing desperation everywhere: elderly men and women begging outside churches and high-end “dollar stores”; peddling peanuts and newspapers on the streets; “dumpster diving” for anything they can resell; and offering to sell even their most meager possessions, like a pair of shoes or a blanket.

    Some earn a few extra pesos as parking lot attendants, getting spots on Cuba’s myriad waiting lines and selling them, or running errands for friends and neighbors. A sack of crushed aluminum cans, picked out of garbage cans, can fetch 60 to 80 pesos.

    Sanchez said that from his 200-peso monthly pension — eight U.S. dollars — after working 30 years for the government communications monopoly, he has to pay 30 to 40 pesos for electricity and 10 to 20 for telephone services.

    He must also pay the government 65 pesos a month for the television set and refrigerator he was forced to buy in 2005 as part of Fidel Castro’s campaign to reduce energy consumption by requiring all homes to replace their old appliances with more-efficient versions.

    “What’s left for food?” Sanchez asked in a telephone interview from his home in the eastern town of Palmarito de Cauto.



  33. CELAC is straight out of Orwell.

    They declare the world’s most violent region a “region of peace” and praise democracy in the most totalitarian state that South America has ever known.

    I see nothing about “sticking up for itself” unless one is referring to the Cocaine trade.

    CELAC is certainly not sticking up for the Cuban people, just for their dictator.

    Lots of dictators have spewed out anti-US hatred in the past – Hitler, Tojo, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot.

    Lots of “sticking up for itself” groups, like the Axis powers, Al-Qaeda, OPEC, the Soviet Bloc, Mexican drug cartels, etc.

    Really nothing new about CELAC.

  34. Hi HUMBY !!
    Congratulations on posting an interesting article by Mr Hamburger and his two colleagues.
    I would certainly suggest that this is interesting and positive news.
    (My concern is that the terms of the US embargo would prevent Mr Fanjul and others like him from investing in Cuba)
    I would also certainly suggest that the CELAC summit was a positive news story and another step forward for Latin America and Cuba.
    The region has been dominated in turn by The Spanish, The British and The USA.
    Such summits represent the region sticking up for itself.
    Humby, you have posted several BBC articles recently.
    Here is another one for you as a special treat.
    It takes a very balanced view regarding the recent summit in Havana.



    WASHINGTON POST: Sugar tycoon Alfonso Fanjul now open to investing in Cuba under ‘right circumstances’ – by Peter Wallsten, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Tom Hamburger

    Alfonso Fanjul fled Cuba as a young man, leaving behind his family’s mansions and vast sugar-cane fields as they were being wrested away by the communist Castro regime.

    In exile in the United States, he built an even larger sugar empire, amassing one of North America’s great fortunes and befriending members of Congress and presidents who benefited from his largesse. The sting of his family’s forced departure from Cuba led him to become one of the principal funders of the U.S. anti-Castro movement.

    Now, contrary to what almost anyone could have imagined, the 76-year-old Fanjul has begun to reassess old grievances and tentatively eye Cuba as a place for him and other U.S. businessmen to expand their enterprises. Quietly, without fanfare, Fanjul has started visiting the island of his birth and having conversations with top Cuban officials.

    Fanjul’s about-face is a startling development for the exile network that has held a grip on the politics of U.S.-Cuba relations for decades and has played an outsize role in presidential campaigns. His trips place him at the vanguard of a group of ultra-wealthy U.S. investors with roots on the island whose economic interests and political clout are pushing the two countries toward a thaw in their half-century standoff.
    Fanjul, in the interview, said repeatedly that his primary motivation in visiting Cuba has been a desire to “reunite the Cuban family,” referring broadly to the Cuban diaspora and those who remain on the island. Business considerations could be explored only if there are political and diplomatic advances, he said.




    CBS NEWS MIAMI: Hackathon For Cuba Begins In Miami
    The gathering has been titled, “Hackathon for Cuba,” and begins Friday in Miami.

    Cuban dissident and online activist Yoani Sanchez is expected to deliver opening remarks at a reception via Skype.

    “The primary purpose is to design solutions that help Cubans break down or circumvent barriers they face in communication with each other or with the outside world,” said Natalia Martinez, chief innovation and technology officer at Roots of Hope, the nonprofit organization putting together the event.

    “The secondary purpose is to create an inclusive and action-oriented conversation around the impact of technology in Cuba, one that involves Cubans from different waves of immigration, different industries,” she said.

    On Saturday, computer programmers and others will develop ideas for smartphone applications that could be used to address the challenges citizens face on the communist island: censorship, limited access to cellphones and the Internet, and expensive service.

    Cuba routinely blocks Internet pages that it finds objectionable, such as the home page of the Ladies in White dissident group and U.S. government-funded news broadcaster Radio and TV Marti. Critics of President Raul Castro accused the government of withholding access to control the people.


  37. Thanks, Nick.

    On a lighter note, I certainly don’t not disagree with your agreement with Neutral Observer’s disagreement with your position.

    In future, however, I think it would good if you tried to limit the use of double negatives. It is confusing and unnecessary. This is merely meant as a public service announcement and is not in any way meant to convey an agenda of any sort, except of course for those who don’t disagree with mine.

    Thank you.

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