Apretaste! A Craigslist for the Island of the Disconnected

Home page of the site Apretaste!

Tatania wants to sell a stroller, Humberto is interested in some sneakers, and the retired woman on the corner is offering a mahogany desk. Individual barter and buying-selling alleviates the shortages in state markets. So it’s become common to see walls plastered with ads offering houses for sale or the services of someone who repairs furniture. The classified sites on the Internet also trade in anything you can imagine, from an illegal satellite dish to birdseed.

Despite the poor connectivity, Craigslist-style sites are very popular on the Island. Some of them have developed strategies to reach Cuban readers, such as the distribution of classifieds via email. This is the case with Apretaste! which offers the service of sending and receiving information via email for users on our “Island of the Disconnected.” Winner of a hackathon held in Miami this February, the site has great potential and boasts a simple design that loads quickly.

Visiting Apretaste!, I remember a phrase I always repeat when I encounter something hard. “Creativity is the capacity to open a window when the door is closed,” I tell myself, like a mantra in complex situations. And this classified portal is a diminutive and promising window that has opened in the iron wall of disconnection. A breath of air flows through it.

I hope that one day Tatiana, Humberto, and the retired lady on the corner can not only use the powers of Apretaste! through email, but also enter it on the web, click, enter a phrase into its simple search engine and find, in this way, whatever they need.


35 thoughts on “Apretaste! A Craigslist for the Island of the Disconnected

  1. Book a room in our luxury hotels near the Parliament of Canada.
    Apart from the budget hotels in Shimla, you have other appealing hotels
    including Hotel Silverine, Radisson Jass Hotel, Shilon Resort, Cecil Oberoi Resort, etc.
    Next you will see a list of car rental companies accompanied with the type of cars they have available and the respective prices.


    KPFA’s “Letters and Politics” yesterday, USAID and OTI in particular have engaged in various efforts to undermine the democratically-elected governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Haiti, among others, and such “open societies” could be more likely to be impacted by such activities than Cuba. Declassified U.S. government documents show that USAID’s OTI in Venezuela played a central role in funding and working with groups and individuals following the short-lived 2002 coup d’etat against Hugo Chávez. A key contractor for USAID/OTI in that effort has been Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI).

    More recent State Department cables made public by Wikileaks reveal that USAID/OTI subversion in Venezuela extended into the Obama administration era (until 2010, when funding for OTI in Venezuela appears to have ended), and DAI continued to play an important role. A State Department cable from November 2006 explains the U.S. embassy’s strategy in Venezuela and how USAID/OTI “activities support [the] strategy”:

    (S) In August of 2004, Ambassador outlined the country team’s 5 point strategy to guide embassy activities in Venezuela for the period 2004 ) 2006 (specifically, from the referendum to the 2006 presidential elections). The strategy’s focus is: 1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) Isolating Chavez internationally.

    Among the ways in which USAID/OTI have supported the strategy is through the funding and training of protest groups. This August 2009 cable cites the head of USAID/OTI contractor DAI’s Venezuela office Eduardo Fernandez as saying, during 2009 protests, that all the protest organizers are DAI grantees:

    ¶5. (S) Fernandez told DCM Caulfield that he believed the [the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Corps’] dual objective is to obtain information regarding DAI’s grantees and to cut off their funding. Fernandez said that “the streets are hot,” referring to growing protests against Chavez’s efforts to consolidate power, and “all these people (organizing the protests) are our grantees.” Fernandez has been leading non-partisan training and grant programs since 2004 for DAI in Venezuela.”

    The November 2006 cable describes an example of USAID/OTI partners in Venezuela “shut[ting] down [a] city”:

    11. (S) CECAVID: This project supported an NGO working with women in the informal sectors of Barquisimeto, the 5th largest city in Venezuela. The training helped them negotiate with city government to provide better working conditions. After initially agreeing to the women’s conditions, the city government reneged and the women shut down the city for 2 days forcing the mayor to return to the bargaining table. This project is now being replicated in another area of Venezuela.

    The implications for the current situation in Venezuela are obvious, unless we are to assume that such activities have ended despite the tens of millions of dollars in USAID funds designated for Venezuela, some of it going through organizations such as Freedom House, and the International Republican Institute, some of which also funded groups involved in the 2002 coup (which prominent IRI staff publicly applauded at the time).

    The same November 2006 cable notes that one OTI program goal is to bolster international support for the opposition:

    …DAI has brought dozens of international leaders to Venezuela, university professors, NGO members, and political leaders to participate in workshops and seminars, who then return to their countries with a better understanding of the Venezuelan reality and as stronger advocates for the Venezuelan opposition.

    Many of the thousands of cables originating from the U.S. embassy in Caracas that have been made available by Wikileaks describe regular communication and coordination with prominent opposition leaders and groups. One particular favorite has been the NGO Súmate and its leader María Corina Machado, who has made headlines over the past two months for her role in the protest movement. The cables show that Machado historically has taken more extreme positions than some other opposition leaders, and the embassy has at least privately questioned Súmate’s strategy of discrediting Venezuela’s electoral system which in turn has contributed to opposition defeats at the polls (most notably in 2005 when an opposition boycott led to complete Chavista domination of the National Assembly). The current protests are no different; Machado and Leopoldo López launched “La Salida” campaign at the end of January with its stated goal of forcing president Nicolás Maduro from office, and vowing to “create chaos in the streets.”

    USAID support for destabilization is no secret to the targeted governments. In September 2008, in the midst of a violent, racist and pro-secessionist campaign against the democratically-elected government of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Morales expelled the U.S. Ambassador, and Venezuela followed suit “in solidarity.” Bolivia would later end all USAID involvement in Bolivia after the agency refused to disclose whom it was funding in the country (Freedom of Information Act requests had been independently filed but were not answered). The U.S. embassy in Bolivia had previously been caught asking Peace Corps volunteers and Fulbright scholars in the country to engage in espionage.

    Commenting on the failed USAID/OTI ZunZuneo program in Cuba, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) commented that, “That is not what USAID should be doing[.] USAID is flying the American flag and should be recognized around the globe as an honest broker of doing good. If they start participating in covert, subversive activities, the credibility of the United States is diminished.”

    But USAID’s track record of engaging in subversive activities is a long one, and U.S. credibility as an “honest broker” was lost many years ago.

  3. ‘The notion that we were somehow trying to forment unrest…nothing could be further from the truth.’
    – State department spokeswoman Marie Harf

    What the USA ??
    Forment unrest in a sovereign country???

    Why! surely not indeed Ms Hart!

    It’s plain to see that this ‘twitter’ story is just the latest mini-chapter in the long litany of the USA’s miserable failure in it’s objective of trying to be Cuba’s ‘big brother’.
    This mini-chapter is however, somewhat benign in comparison to some that have preceded it.

    The fact that the methods that the USA now uses to try and destabilise Cuba are becoming so benign is good news.
    Perhaps it is a sign that the USA’s pathetic and petulant policies towards Cuba are finally starting to dry up.
    Maybe the end of this particular part of U.S. neo imperialist history is in sight.

    It’s always good to take the positives out of a news story.



    N.Y. TIMES: Cuba Social Media Project Was No Plot, Agency Says – By RON NIXON

    WASHINGTON — A Twitter-like social media site created and financed by the United States Agency for International Development for use in Cuba was an attempt to promote open communications among citizens on the island nation, not a covert attempt to overthrow the government, the agency’s top official told members of Congress during a hearing on Tuesday.

    Appearing before both the Senate and House appropriations subcommittees, Rajiv Shah, U.S.A.I.D.’s administrator, told members that the program was similar to others that the agency has financed in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

    “These programs are part of our mission to promote open communications,” he said.

    Dr. Shah said he did not know who had created the Cuban program, as it was conceived before his appointment as administrator. He insisted, however, that “there was no covert activity that took place.”

    Despite harsh criticism of the program by several members on the two committees, two Florida representatives, Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat, praised what they said was an effort to undermine the Cuban government and called the program a success.

    “It did have results, and it did connect Cubans to each other,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said.

    Still, Mr. Leahy, who was visibly annoyed by Dr. Shah’s insistence that the program was legal and not covert, blamed it for further endangering the life of Alan P. Gross, a U.S.A.I.D. contractor who has been imprisoned in Cuba since 2009.



    ABC NEWS: Glance: Draft Messages for Secret ‘Cuban Twitter’

    USAID’s secret Cuban Twitter program hired Alen Lauzan Falcon, a Havana-born satirical artist based in Chile, to propose text messages to be sent to Cuban users. Neither Lauzan nor the Cuban subscribers realized the U.S. government was behind ZunZuneo, the social media network.

    But in an interview Tuesday, Lauzan said he does only political work.

    In a series of linked messages, obtained by The Associated Press, Lauzan had imagined Cuban President Raul Castro teaming with the now-deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as a pop act who would dance the “perreo,” a twerk-like Caribbean dance associated with the tropical genre reggaeton, and record songs with titles mocking their countries’ economic and social policies.

    Said one text: “‘The economy is not our thing’ by the Hugo and Raul duo is already a hit.”

    The messages, written in Spanish and presented here in translation, are full of puns, cultural references and in-jokes that would mystify most outsiders but would be readily understandable by islanders.

    Here is a sample of the messages Lauzan wrote for ZunZuneo:
    54% of Americans think Michael Jackson is alive and 86% of Cubans think Fidel Castro is dead.
    Fidel Castro Ruz’s nails are cut after fifty-one years. They will be donated in Formal Ceremony to the Museum of Manicurevolution.
    (Note: “Manicurevolution” is a play on “manicure” and Havana’s Museum of the Revolution.)
    Latest: Cuban dies of electrical shock from laptop. “I told you so,” declares a satisfied Ramiro. “Those machines are weapons of the enemy!”
    (Note: Ramiro Valdes is a Cuban vice president and former communications minister who once famously described the Internet as a “wild colt” that “should be tamed.”)
    Hot news! Latest!: Cuba YES, laptops NO! Ramiro, firm: “We are too old and revolutionary for that, dude, the cellphone is enough for us!”
    The coma-andante testified in “Hysteria will Bury me” his desire to be buried with MP3 of Baby Lores.
    NO: TOO POLITICAL (Apparent rejection of this text)
    (Note: “Coma-andante” is a pun on “comandante,” the honorific commonly attributed to Fidel Castro; the Spanish-language play on words translates roughly to “walking comatose,” a dig at Castro’s age and shaky health in recent years. “Hysteria will Bury me” references Castro’s revolutionary prison manifesto, “History will absolve me.” Baby Lores is another reggaeton singer.)


  6. I enjoy Mr. Blaine’s posts too.

    Particularly amusing is his “skin in the game” remark.

    As with Nick and Omar, that must mean spending your day on conspiracy sites and fantasizing the CIA is after you.

    For revolutionary heroes willing to put their “skin in the game”, I recommend a May Day parade in Havana, followed by a repudiation rally where you will assault old ladies who are really CIA agents, followed by a few Mojitos at the Habana Libre.

    OK, forget the Mojitos, that really is dangerous in Cuba.

    Then return to London and wax poetic over your heroic adventure standing up to the CIA.

  7. Congratulations Mister Blaine,
    I’ve been reading the comments on this forum for a while now.
    I have to mention that I find many to be somewhat dull, repetitive, lacking in neutrality and normally humourless.
    I congratulate you on your latest remark.
    That is one funny comment fella.

  8. Mr. Blaine,

    You’re off by a few decades and occupations, but that’s OK.

    I didn’t expect anything intelligent from you and you didn’t disappoint.

    Codeword: globalresearch. For those with inquiring minds.

    By the way, Maduro is looking for heroes like you willing to shoot unarmed demonstrators in the head.

    Don’t worry, they’re not people, just CIA agents.

  9. Neutral Observer (mythical): I know that wasn’t you. No code word. Besides, “thugs”? I don’t believe that Batista, Castro or Madura ever played cornerback at Stanford.

    Neutral Observer (actual, whom I hope may be monitoring this communication): I’m leaving now for my off-grid, top-secret, desert installation – Airstream parked beneath a large, war surplus satellite dish, 50 miles due north of Yuma, Arizona if you’d care to join me. I have a years supply of pure grain alcohol and rainwater on hand, so no need to bring supplies. I’m going to follow up on a lead that our Neptunian Overlords (those slimy, lizard-tailed bastards) are holding Flight 370 at Captain Nemo’s abandoned, secret, underwater base in the South Indian Ocean.

    Carry on. You’re doing great work. We’re all counting on you. And no matter what any one else may say about you, you’re okay with me. I particularly admire your use of derogatory comments and personal slurs to cleverly conceal your true erudite and educated nature. You can’t be too careful. As it is, one might construe that you are nothing more than a pimply-face adolescent jerking off in the tool shed behind his parents double-wide. Good work. Masterfully done.

    Tally-ho. And remember, never put your own skin in the game.

    Oh, final thing, code word change: Los Talibanes


    Cuban authorities say they have eliminated more than 100,000 jobs in the nation’s national health service, considered one of the pillars of the 1959 revolution.

    The cuts come as the president, Raul Castro, tries to streamline government as part of a broader economic reform package.

    The weekly newspaper Trabajadores said on Monday that 109,000 health care positions had been cut.

    Two years ago, Cuba said more than 50,000 jobs in that sector had been slashed.

    Most of the cuts came in less-skilled positions such as ambulance drivers and hospital support staff.

    Cuba’s health care sector is entirely run by the state. Authorities have said that like other areas of the economy it is plagued by inefficiency, redundancies and bloated payrolls.

    Maduro in 2011 said he planned to cut half a million jobs from government payrolls, as the country moves away from a state-planned economy.

    About 400,000 islanders are currently working independently of the state under Castro’s reforms.

  11. Politics

    Maduro accepts proposal to meet with opposition

    President Nicolas Maduro says he has accepted a proposal of the foreign ministers from the Union of South American Nations to meet with representatives of the opposition. “We had a rather broad conversation. They proposed to me to have a meeting with the opposition delegation and, well, I accepted, as I’ve been calling for political dialogue, for peace, for democracy for eight weeks,” said Maduro after meeting with the diplomats. (Latin American Herald Tribune, http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=1913323&CategoryId=10717; Veneconomy, http://www.veneconomy.com/site/index.asp?ids=44&idt=38791&idc=1; AVN, http://www.avn.info.ve/contenido/new-unasur-commission-caracas-peace-talks; El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/140407/maduro-agrees-to-meet-with-dissenters-at-unasurs-request and http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/140407/opposition-unasur-hold-second-meeting-on-dialogue-in-venezuela; More in Spanish: CNN, http://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2014/04/07/cancilleres-de-unasur-regresan-a-venezuela-en-medio-de-la-conmocion-por-nuevos-casos-de-violencia/?iref=allsearch)

    Opposition leadership sets conditions for talks with Maduro

    In a letter to the UNASUR Foreign Ministers, the opposition’s United Democratic Conference (MUD) has stated that it would talk to the government “on equal footing”, and that the first meeting should be fully televised live nationwide. They also wrote that they expect to establish an agenda that establishes as its priorities an Amnesty law for all political prisoners, an independent Truth Commission to investigate crimes committed over the past weeks, a balanced renewal of powers such as the Elections Board and the Supreme Court, and disarming civilian paramilitary groups. The opposition’s leadership says that – contrary to prior reports – UNASUR has not set up a committee of 3 foreign ministers to facilitate talks, and that the government has not formally invited the Vatican to take part, which they the opposition – consider “essential” for talks. More in Spanish: (El Universal, http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/140408/amnistia-y-desarme-civil-son-prioritarios-para-la-mud)

    Opposition leader formally charged

    Jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was formally charged Friday with inciting violence at an anti-government protest that has been followed by weeks of unrest across Venezuela. Chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz announced the charges a day before the legal deadline to make the case for keeping Lopez in custody. The Harvard-educated Lopez has become a cause celebre among opponents of President Nicolas Maduro during the month and a half he has spent in a military prison outside the capital. (The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/venezuelan-opposition-formally-charged/2014/04/04/119087bc-bc19-11e3-80de-2ff8801f27af_story.html; Fox News, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/04/04/venezuela-formally-accuses-opposition-leader-charges-could-lead-to-years-long/)

  12. Note to Mr. Blaine,

    I assume your questions are asked in jest. You couldn’t possibly be so dense, could you?

    Just in case, I don’t think Batista was a leftist, or a rightist for that matter.

    Batista was a thug. Castro was a bigger thug. So is Maduro.

    I just find it amusing that insults of “right-wing” and “fascist” are so often launched by people that fit the bill.

  13. Back to Planet Earth.

    The death toll in Venezuela since protests began just includes those shot by Maduro’s troops while protesting.

    It doesn’t include all those who have been assassinated by Venezuela’s death squads, a daily occurence since Chavez created his Socialist Paradise.

    Maduro’s death squads must be working overtime these days.

    Although most victims of Maduro are poor, so the killings go unreported, the corpses of two opposition figures were found on Sunday:


  14. Humberto,

    It doesn’t matter that the USAID program was open and transparent, it’s still an evil CIA conspiracy.

    That AP reporter deserves the Pulitzer Prize. I mean, who else could have looked up public USAID documents on the Internet?

    I shudder to think what would have happened if Cubans started getting weather reports on Twitter.

    Come to think of it, it’s raining right now. I’m sure the CIA is behind it! Just gotta be them.

  15. Nick,

    I don’t defend the torture of prisoners, even if they are terrorists.

    Have you been to Guantanamo? Have you been to Afghanistan?

    You keep mentioning that Hank hasn’t set foot in Cuba.

    By the same logic, maybe you are totally ignorant about what is going on in Guantanamo?

    All I wrote is that Cubans who have been tortured and want to tell their stories never get to meet up with Cuba’s pampered BBC reporters.

    The BBC isn’t interested.

    It’s simple Nick, if you piss off Castro, you get kicked out of Cuba.

    I also wrote that Guantanamo is a country club compared to the Cuban prison system. That is a certainty.

    THE WASHINGTON POST: Alan Gross, U.S. contractor held in Cuba, goes on hunger strike – By Karen DeYoung
    Alan Gross, the U.S. government contractor who has been imprisoned in Cuba for more than four years, began a hunger strike last week to protest his treatment by both the Cuban and U.S. governments, his lawyer said Tuesday.
    “I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any reasonable or valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal,” Gross said in a telephoned statement to his legal team.
    As he has many times before, Gross called on President Obama to become personally involved in efforts to free him from “inhumane treatment” in a Cuban prison.

    NPR NEWS:USAID Says Building Of ‘Cuban Twitter’ Was Part Of Public Record – by EYDER PERALTA

    The United States Agency for International Development came out swinging today against anAssociated Press report that said the agency used public funds to build a social media platform designed to undermine the Cuban government.

    In a blog post, USAID says the wire agency “falsely characterized” the program.

    USAID says ZunZuneo, which the AP dubbed the “Cuban Twitter,” was not a covert program, it was not designed to overthrow the Communist regime on the island and it was paid for with publicly earmarked money.

    Here’s a key passage from the agency’s blog:

    “USAID works in places where we are not always welcome. To minimize the risk to our staff and partners and ensure our work can proceed safely, we must take certain precautions and maintain a discreet profile. But discreet does not equal covert.

    “The programs have long been the subject of Congressional notifications, unclassified briefings, public budget requests, and public hearings. All of the Congressional Budget Justificationspublished from 2008 through 2013, which are public and online, explicitly state that a key goal of USAID’s Cuba program is to break the ‘information blockade’ or promote ‘information sharing’ amongst Cubans and that assistance will include the use or promotion of new ‘technologies’ and/or ‘new media’ to achieve its goals.”

    USAID goes on to say that a memo that talked about the creation of “smart mobs,” “had nothing to do with Cuba nor ZunZuneo.”

    “The documents do not represent the U.S. government’s position or reflect the spirit or actions taken as part of the program in Cuba,” USAID writes. “The project initially sent news, sports scores, weather, and trivia. After which, the grantee did not direct content because users were generating it on their own.”


  18. Cuba APRETASTE! can eventually be expanded to post for Venezuelan citizens or other PetroCaribe countries. It can facilitate meeting needs in this cohort of nations. This is really good news.


    Having observed people helping one another in friendly, social, and trusting communal ways on the Internet via the WELL, MindVox and Usenet, and feeling isolated as a relative newcomer to San Francisco, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark decided to create something similar for local events.[6][7] In early 1995, he began an email distribution list to friends. Most of the early postings were submitted by Newmark and were notices of social events of interest to software and Internet developers living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Soon, word of mouth led to rapid growth. The number of subscribers and postings grew rapidly. There was no moderation and Newmark was surprised when people started using the mailing list for non-event postings.[citation needed] People trying to get technical positions filled found that the list was a good way to reach people with the skills they were looking for. This led to the addition of a category for “jobs”. User demand for more categories caused the list of categories to grow. The initial technology encountered some limits, so by June 1995 majordomo had been installed and the mailing list “Craigslist” resumed operations. Community members started asking for a web interface. Craig registered “craigslist.org”, and the website went live in 1996.

    By early 1998, Newmark still thought his career was as a software engineer (“hardcore java programmer”) and that Craigslist was a cool hobby that was getting him invited to the best parties for geeks and nerds.[citation needed] In the fall of 1998, the name “List Foundation” was introduced and Craigslist started transitioning to the use of this name. In April 1999, when Newmark learned of other organizations called “List Foundation”, the use of this name was dropped. Craigslist incorporated as a private for-profit company in 1999.[6] Around the time of these events, Newmark realized that the site was growing so fast that he could stop working as a software engineer and work full-time running Craigslist. By April 2000, there were nine employees working out of Newmark’s apartment in San Francisco.[8]

    In January 2000, current CEO Jim Buckmaster joined the company as lead programmer and CTO. Buckmaster contributed the site’s multi-city architecture, search engine, discussion forums, flagging system, self-posting process, homepage design, personals categories, and best-of-Craigslist feature. He was promoted to CEO in November 2000.[9]

    The web site expanded into nine more U.S. cities in 2000, four in 2001 and 2002 each, and 14 in 2003. On August 1, 2004, Craigslist began charging $25 to post job openings on the New York and Los Angeles pages. On the same day, a new section called “Gigs” was added, where low-cost and unpaid jobs and internships can be posted free.


    Craigslist headquarters in the Inner Sunset District of San Francisco prior to 2010.
    The site serves over 20 billion page views per month, putting it in 37th place overall among web sites worldwide and 10th place overall among web sites in the United States (per Alexa.com on March 24, 2011), with over 49.4 million unique monthly visitors in the United States alone (per Compete.com on January 8, 2010). With over 80 million new classified advertisements each month, Craigslist is the leading classifieds service in any medium. The site receives over 2 million new job listings each month, making it one of the top job boards in the world.[10][11] The 23 largest U.S. cities listed on the Craigslist home page collectively receive more than 300,000 postings per day just in the “for sale” and “housing” sections as of October 2011.[12] The classified advertisements range from traditional buy/sell ads and community announcements to personal ads.

    In 2009, Craigslist operated with a staff of 28 people.[13]

    Financials and ownership

    In December 2006, at the UBS Global Media Conference in New York, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster told Wall Street analysts that Craigslist has little interest in maximizing profit, instead it prefers to help users find cars, apartments, jobs, and dates.[14][15]

    Craigslist’s main source of revenue is paid job ads in select cities—$75 per ad for the San Francisco Bay Area; $25 per ad for New York City, Los Angeles, San Diego, Boston, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, Orange County (California) and Portland, Oregon—and paid broker apartment listings in New York City ($10 per ad).

    The company does not formally disclose financial or ownership information. Analysts and commentators have reported varying figures for its annual revenue, ranging from $10 million in 2004, $20 million in 2005, and $25 million in 2006 to possibly $150 million in 2007.[16][17][18]

    On August 13, 2004, Newmark announced on his blog that auction giant eBay had purchased a 25% stake in the company from a former employee.[19] Some fans of Craigslist expressed concern that this development would affect the site’s longtime non-commercial nature. As of April 2012, there have been no substantive changes to the usefulness or non-advertising nature of the site—no banner ads, charges for a few services provided to businesses.

    The company is believed to be owned principally by Newmark, Buckmaster, and eBay (the three board members). eBay owns approximately 25%, and Newmark is believed to own the largest stake.

    In April 2008, eBay announced that it was suing Craigslist to “safeguard its four-year financial investment”. eBay claimed in January 2008 that Craigslist executives took actions that “unfairly diluted eBay’s economic interest by more than 10%”. In response, Craigslist filed a counter-suit against eBay in May 2008 to “remedy the substantial and ongoing harm to fair competition” that Craigslist claims is constituted by eBay’s actions as Craigslist shareholders.

  20. Mr Observer,
    There you go.
    Defending the indefensible again.
    You’ve bought into those lies put out by the horrific Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld axis (and backed up by their fawning lackeys in the right wing owned press) that persuade gullible fools that the inmates in ‘Guantanamo Torture Centre’ are all ‘terrorists’.

    Because you believe these lies, you will defend those that torture these prisoners.

    And then after this display of condoning barbarity,
    you have the cheek to criticise those who take a balanced view toward Cuba.

    This is far from the first time that you have made yourself look ridiculous with your comments on here.

  21. Nick,

    I’ve met many Cubans who spent time in Castro’s gulag.

    Some were tortured and starved. No BBC reporter ever interviewed any of them.

    Gee, I wonder why?

    Maybe the BBC should balance its reporting and give the Cuban people some coverage?

    I know terrorists are swell guys and deserve a lot of positive BBC press coverage, as they do the thankless task of blowing up infidel schoolgirls,

    But there are other injustices in the world. Like Cuban pacifists locked up in Castro’s gulag, which really does make Guantanamo look like a country club.

  22. To answer Omar, Nick, and Mr. Blaine, all at once.

    Under Batista, there were independent trade unions in Cuba and workers were much better paid.

    Castro made trade unions and all workers protest illegal, with the support of Armchair Socialists like you guys.

    Under Castro, most workers are paid less than 1 dollar a day. In fact, many are paid less than 50 cents a day.

    I assume people who hate trade unions and support serfdom, like yourselves and Comrade Castro, fit the definition of right-wingers?

    Hitler called himself a socialist too, just like you guys. He also abolished trade unions. I assume he was a right-winger?

    He was also a racist who supported mid-east terrorists, just like you guys. I think that is right-wing too?

    According to my left-wing friends, my definitions are correct.

    I also looked up the dictionary several times. According to my dictionary, Castro and his supporters are fascists.

    Are you guys using a different dictionary?

    Don’t worry, I don’t expect any intelligent response from any of you, ever.

    I expect more quotes from global CIA conspiracy dot com.

  23. Hank has complained that he has been criticised by me for holding somewhat extreme one-sided viewpoints regarding Cuba whilst never having actually visited the country.
    Now he seems to be going one step further and criticising others for going there.
    This is getting a bit weird Hank….
    It is a very strange and delusional stance to take.
    And surely one borne of extreme frustration that the world is not exactly as mammy and pappy told you that it should be…

    Just for you Hank, and also in the interest of providing a bit of balance to this comments page, here is a story about a guy who would rather not be in Cuba.
    He was taken there against his will.
    He has been imprisoned there for well over a decade.
    He has been tortured.
    He has never seen his youngest child.
    He says US forces threatened to go to London and find and rape this child.
    They won’t let him leave this nasty little corner of Cuba which is occupied by the USA.
    He wishes he could be like Hank.
    He wishes he had had the choice never to go to Cuba.
    He has been convicted of no crime.
    Maybe one day he will be released.
    Maybe, as the have with other detainees that have been held and tortured by U.S. forces, the Cuban government will one day invite him to see a better part of the country, the Cuba that is not occupied by the sicko U.S. taxpayer funded torture centre.


  24. Mr Observer,
    You must waste a lot of time and effort trying to put your shoes on to go out each day, because you quite obviously do not know your left from your right.
    Are you always late for everything ??

  25. Mr. Blaine: Neutral observer is under geriatric care….this is the only explanation that anyone would consider Fulgencio Batista, the Cuban Premier prior to the 1959 revolution a Left Winger…

  26. Open Question: Neutral Observer wrote: “The trouble with left-wingers like Batista is that he kept the majority of Cuba’s capital in Cuban hands.” Is that so? A left-winger?

  27. Hank: lift the embargo….most of the “crimes” you speak of were the result of dissent that went too far….they were punished for counter-revolutionary acts….the criminal code in Cuba is written so that there is wide scope of interpretation by the State when we compare it to developed world standards. But, they are not the worst in the World. It is my humble opinion that if you are against a law or set of laws in a country, every effort should be given to a peaceful solution. Repeal or revise the law through accepted legal mechanism. If this fails, criticism of the law that gains national attention should be the next step. Obtaining the support of someone in government would be necessary. In the case of Cuba, you need the support of an important military man, important province governor or someone that has its ear. A position paper reflecting cost/benefits of revising the law is necessary. The Cuban government position talks about National Security, integrity, sovereignty, criticism of socialism. Raul Castro’s Reform Plan which requires changes to laws, regulations and codes to implement, apparently to me, is making the revisions the Cuban government in this moment in time is willing to concede. This is why the long winded speech by Senator Menendez to go over old historical events in Cuba, to me, was fruitless. The 2011 Raul Castro reforms addresses the causes of the arrests, killings and demonstrations that took place in the past. These terrible acts of oppression are really symptomatic consequences of laws that the People could not live by. The upcoming new digital newspaper Yoani and her group are going to launch should restrain the criticism of the law in Cuba to criticism that is inside the new paradigm change in the law, regulations and codes that have been revised thanks to Raul Castro’s reforms. If the criticism crosses the invisible line of tolerance the Cuban government has, it is going to be a very short lived venture (international support or no international support).

  28. You are quite welcome, Mister Blaine. The speech by Senator Menendez was brilliant and I am glad you thought so too.

    There is unfortunately no shortage of travelers from Western and Eastern Europe, Canada and elsewhere who have no qualms about visiting the totalitarian dictatorship in Cuba and handing over their money to support it by staying in its hotels and eating at its restaurants.

    To be fair, those travelers and people like you probably haven’t been the victims of slavery or had anyone you know murdered or imprisoned for decades by the Castros. So you don’t really know what that is like. You don’t understand that reality because you haven’t lived it.

    Still, it seems perverse to me to go to a place like Cuba and go around photographing the enslaved natives in their natural state. As though you were visiting a zoo. If that’s what you’re in to, more power to you.


    Maintain and expand the Chinese-Venezuelan Joint Fund. The Chinese-Venezuelan Joint Fund has come to be an extraordinary financing mechanism for the Venezuelan State, since this is a bilateral cooperation structure agreed between the governments of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the People’s Republic of China, whereby significant financial resources are received and are later on paid off with the supply of crude and by-products.
    This instrument has made it possible for the country to consolidate a new geopolitics based on the diversification of the markets. Likewise, this mechanism allows for the allocation of resources specifically for the development of the country, the construction of infrastructure works of national interest, the promotion of small and medium industries and the strengthening of chains of production and the supporting infrastructure required to further up economic growth.

    This Joint Fund has been financially structured based on conditions that are highly beneficial for the country, as different from the reality facing the international financial markets, since it maximizes the use of energy, thus achieving a balance in financial costs.

    Ate the close of 2011, the Republic has received a total of 32 million dollars through this mechanism with which we have developed and are developing:

    • Infrastructure projects, such as trains, highways, maritime ports and telecommunication networks;
    • Social projects, such as housing, hospitals and health care centers;
    • Energy development projects, such as oil refineries, natural gas processing plants, oil and natural gas pipelines, liquid gas processing plants and projects for the extraction, transportation and marketing of coal;
    • Projects for the transportation of crude and oil by-products and the construction of tanks;
    • Industrial integration projects, such as the construction of merchant ships and other enterprises associated to the production of natural gas, the manufacturing of fertilizers and chemical products;
    • Projects for the automotive industry;
    • Agro-industrial projects, factories for the assembling of high-tech products and companies that provide services to the oil industry. Industries for the manufacturing of steel and aluminum and mining companies.

    That policy implemented by the Bolivarian Government has allowed us to become independent from multilateral financing organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

    Thanks to this initiative we have managed to recover economic autonomy, negotiations flexibility and national sovereignty to be able to establish alliances with other non-traditional financing sources.


    Merida, 7th April 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Thirty three social movements from across the hemisphere have expressed solidarity with the Venezuelan government.

    Today, representatives of social movements from the member states of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) are concluding a four day conference in Caracas, Venezuela. Representatives met to discuss political, social and economic issues in the region, according to TeleSUR.

    Representatives of 33 movements from the conference met with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua to express solidarity with the government of President Nicolas Maduro over the weekend.

    “This meeting has helped us to build the new world our liberator Simon Bolivar and Comandante [Hugo] Chavez dreamed of,” Jaua stated.

    Brazilian representative Joao Pedro Stedile told the press that the social movements expressed “solidarity with Venezuela towards the offensive of the capitalists and the US”.

    “We resolve the problems of Latin America from Latin America,” Stedile stated.

    Member of the ALBA operational secretariat Manuel Bertoldi stated, “We reaffirm our commitment and our solidarity with the Venezuelan people and the government of President Nicolas Maduro”.

    Bertoldi added that the social movements are “helping consolidate popular integration, which in turn corresponds to the legacy of Hugo Chavez Frias to live in a world without exploiters and exploited”.

    At least 50 representatives from 21 countries attended the talks, held in the Hotel ALBA.

    Attendees came from countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela.

  31. Incorrect, Omar.

    Your semiliterate response doesn’t cut it.

    Read the speech again. People like me are not dead or anywhere near geriatric care. That’s what you Castro fanatics bank on and that’s where you are simply wrong. We don’t forget and we are not going away.

    What “reciprocal solution” do you think would be right for murdering human beings in Cuba who happen to disagree with Castro?

    What “reciprocal solution” would be appropriate for Cuba, a state sponsor of terror, sending another state sponsor, North Korea, weapons — and getting caught in the act?

    What “reciprocal solution” do you propose for enslaving millions of people in Cuba for over half a century?

    What “reciprocal solution” do you suggest for thousands of extrajudicial executions in Cuba by the Castros?

    What “reciprocal solution” do you propose in response to Raul’s paltry legalization of private enterprises such as sewing buttons, filling cigarette lighters, and street performing?

    You don’t have any “reciprocal solutions.” All you have is unilateral concessions to an illegitimate dictatorship.

    The passage of time does not absolve any criminal for murder. There is no statute of limitations for that crime.

    Sanctions on Cuba should not be lifted until and unless the Castros are Gone.

  32. Omar,

    I am glad you support Raul Castro’s turn towards extreme right-wing capitalism. You must be a Socialist Worker.

    I’m with you Comrade.

    I like the fact that Castro won’t allow unions or any worker dissent.

    That makes the Cuban workers a cheap and attractive commodity for foreign investment.

    I also like the fact that foreign multinationals will be able to buy up Cuba, but Cubans won’t.

    The trouble with left-wingers like Batista is that he kept the majority of Cuba’s capital in Cuban hands.

    I’m glad the Castros got rid of all those Cuban businessmen. Cuba will make a fine Chinese and Brazilian sweatshop.

  33. Hank: Thanks for posting this. Fascinating. No American tourists in Cuba? Well, there are probably a few travellers from Western and Eastern Europe, Canada and elsewhere that won’t be too terribly disappointed on that count.

  34. Hank: Menendez speech pretty much covered a recent time line of events in Cuba. The majority was caused by dissent incentivized by the Special Period in Cuba. The reality of Cuba since Raul Castro announced his Plan in 2011 have placed Cuba on the Right Path to the future. Menendez speech was made to “elevate” historical facts to the National Stage, but, I am disappointed by what I read because he does not offer any reciprocal solution to match Raul Castro’s reforms to really help the people of Cuba. Menendez still is making the same old Right Wing Cuban extremists position of 55 years. The majority of People who believed in that position are dead or in geriatric care…what a wasted opportunity by a Cuban- American on that stage!!!….

  35. Senator Menendez gave the following speech today on the floor of the United States Senate. It is one of the best I have ever read on Cuba and I could not agree more. There is absolutely no reason to ease any sanctions on Cuba now.

    I reproduce the Senator’s remarks below and also provide a link to the Capitol Hill Cubans website where it is also posted.


    M. President, as the attention of the world has been focused on the pre-1991 Soviet behavior of President Putin in Crimea – I come to the floor to remind the American public and members of this body that there is also a full-fledged human rights crisis ongoing in our own hemisphere, just 90 miles from our shores in Cuba.

    As Ukrainians courageously fight to protect the democracy they won when the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago this year, the Cuban people continue to suffer from the oppression of a Soviet-style dictatorship that denies them the most basic rights.

    When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, millions of people – from Kiev to Budapest – Africa to Asia – were given their first chance in decades to build their own governments. A first chance to organize democratic elections. The chance to begin to determine their own futures.

    Since the end of the Cold War, peace, prosperity and progress have largely been the order of the day for hundreds of millions of people, but not for the people of Cuba. Not one of these core principles of democracy can be found on the island.

    Fidel and Raul Castro have been the only names on any ballot for over 50 years. Not one free election has been held. Not one Cuban has been allowed to own their own company. Not one legitimate trade union has been allowed to be organized. Not one peaceful protest has occurred without being brutally squashed by the regime.

    No, this is the reality of Cuba today, it was the reality when the Berlin Wall fell — and it’s been Cuba’s reality for almost 60 years since Fidel Castro began taking control of every aspect of Cuban life. This reality in Cuba, the decades-long brutal oppression of simple human and democratic rights, the total disdain for the aspirations of a people by the Castro regime, its military and communist lackey-thugs who penetrate and control people’s lives at all levels should not be overlooked, it should not be romanticized, and it should never be explained away.

    But, unlike Ukraine where we have watched in horror as people have been ruthlessly beaten and killed for simply aspiring for democratic and transparent government, the Castro regime does not allow images of its oppression to be broadcast around the globe – let alone at home. But just because we do not see those images streaming across television sets and in the newspapers does not mean the world should not be watching. It does not mean we have turned the other way and it does not mean we have overlooked the brutal and often times lethal oppression of the regime in Cuba.

    The number of people the regime has murdered or abducted is in the tens-of-thousands, if not the tens of thousands. Hundreds of thousands of children have been separated from their parents. Maybe hundreds of thousands of families have been torn apart. Millions of men, women and young people have been forced into the fields to cut sugar cane and perform other hard labor against their will. The average Cuban worker lives on an income of less than a dollar a day.

    The Castro regime has been most adept not at spreading education and prosperity, but at instilling a penetrating fear and terror in the style of a Stalinist police state. This has been going on since 1959, but, unfortunately, it is not a thing of the past.

    Let us not overlook the fact that arbitrary and politically motivated arrests in Cuba reportedly topped 1,000 for a third straight month this February, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a group inside Cuba, founded by Elizardo Sanchez Santa-Cruz whose mission is to bring change and freedom to the island. The Commission reported that “arrests in the past three months have nearly doubled from the monthly averages of the previous two years.”

    We must remind ourselves everyday of the continued oppression and human suffering that is happening – not only halfway around the world, but 90 miles from our own shores. The ongoing oppressive behavior of the Cuban regime we saw for the last half of the 20th century still haunts our hemisphere today.

    While Putin has annexed Crimea, while one wonders what’s next, while Assad continues to kill his own people in Syria, while the world is watching the Taliban in Afghanistan, and violence continues in the Central African Republic taking countless lives, the oppression of the Castro regime keeps rolling along – unabated.

    If there is a single symbol of that oppression, of the longing for freedom in Cuba, it is the Ladies in White – Damas de Blanco – and their leader, Berta Soler. The courage she has displayed to promote democracy and political freedom in Cuba has served as an extraordinary example for all of us and everyone around the world who longs to be free.

    Every Sunday, they protest the jailing of their relatives by attending mass and quietly marching through the streets of Havana, praying for nothing more than the freedom of their relatives and respect for the human rights of all Cubans. Often arrested, roughed-up, detained, jailed, held for days — maybe weeks — released and jailed again, the Ladies in White are the symbol of freedom and women like Laura Pollan represents the story of thousands.

    She was a school teacher living with her husband, Hector, the leader of the outlawed Cuban Liberal Party. They were living a normal life in a small house on Neptune Street in Havana. Early one morning there was a pounding at the front door. The police came in. Searched everything. There was a sham-trial held in Cuba. Hector was imprisoned. Sentenced to 20 years in jail and accused of acting against national security. His only crime was dreaming of a free Cuba, and putting that dream in writing.

    Since I last came to the floor to speak about Cuba, I met Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of the long-time dissident and political activist, Oswaldo Paya. He was a Roman Catholic and the head of the Christian Liberation Movement who collected 25,000 signatures in the Varela Project – a peaceful effort to petition the regime for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly. For his peaceful efforts he was awarded the Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament.

    His peaceful efforts, were seen as a danger to the regime, a threat for which he was detained and arrested many times. Many times he suffered at the hands of the regime, and, last year, he died in Cuba – killed as Cuban state security rammed his car off the road. What we know is the car, driven by Spanish politician Angel Carromero, a citizen of Spain and Aron Modig, a party activist in Sweden, was involved in the fatal automobile accident that killed Paya and his Cuban colleague Harold Cepero.

    The circumstances surrounding Paya’s death leave any reasonable person to conclude what really happened on that road in eastern Cuba that took the life of Oswaldo was an assassination. His daughter, Rosa Maria, immediately challenged the regime’s version of events stating that the family had received information from the survivors that their car was repeatedly rammed by another vehicle. “So we think it’s not an accident,” she said, “They wanted to do harm and then ended up killing my father.”

    Ms. Paya was in Washington not long ago, accepting a posthumous award from the National Endowment for Democracy on behalf of another young Cuban activist who died alongside Oswaldo Paya. At the time, the new Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, had come before the Foreign Relations Committee during the nomination process, and assured me she would reach out to Ms. Paya when confirmed. Since then, she has not only met with Rosa Maria, but also directly challenged Cuba’s foreign minister to permit an independent international investigation into Mr. Paya’s death. I commend Ambassador Power for standing with those still suffering in Cuba and with Oswaldo Paya and his family who died for advocating peaceful democratic change and Christian values.

    But Cuba’s reach doesn’t end with the detention or the death of dissidents like Oswaldo Paya. It doesn’t end at the water’s edge. It goes much further.

    Cuba is at the head of a new and dire crisis in our hemisphere that we cannot ignore and now we see the same oppression of peaceful activists in Cuba on the streets of Caracas. Venezuela’s political crisis is growing: 40 dead; hundreds injured; the nation’s economy deteriorating; inflation at record levels; a scarcity of basic foods and goods. M. President, it sounds like Cuba to me!

    Behind Venezuela’s economic crisis, we can see Cuba’s failed policies – expropriation and nationalization of various sectors of the economy, fixed prices in the consumer economy, criminalization of business leaders and their companies, currency manipulation and rationing of basic foodstuff.

    Behind Venezuela’s political crisis, we can clearly see familiar Cuban tactics – the demonization of the dissent, intolerance and oppression of any form of opposition, politicizing of the military and judiciary, the silencing of independent television and radio stations, the shutting-down of newspapers, the arrest of political opponents doing nothing more than exercising basic rights to freedom of assembly.

    We see Cuba’s destabilizing presence is deeply entwined in Venezuela’s crisis. It started with the discovery of 29 Cuban spies in Margarita Island in Venezuela in 1997. It grew steadily and insidiously through the Chavez years with the Cuban presence and key advisors from Havana in almost every institution of national government in Venezuela – from the military to intelligence agencies to the health sector to industrial policy. And the result? Democracy subverted and innocent people dying from bullets fired by the government and its thugs – just like in Cuba.

    And yet, knowing the instability that the Cuban regime continues to spread, amazingly, Europe, nations in Latin America and the Caribbean, and some of my colleagues in this Chamber, are seeking new opportunities to engage the Cuban regime. Some want to ease sanctions at this critical moment and fundamentally redefine our relationship with Cuba. I could not disagree more.

    We can never turn our back on what has happened and continues to happen in Cuba! We can never wink-and-nod, and say: It’s been 50 years, that’s long enough, things are changing for the better in Cuba, so we should ease sanctions.

    I say – NO! – No, we should not ease sanctions. We should not let up. We should not reward the Castro regime for its human rights violations. For the suffering it continues to cause the people of Cuba.

    We should not reward the regime for the long dark years they have brought to the island. We should not ease tourism restrictions simply because the clock is ticking.

    Those who wish to pursue engagement with Cuba must not forget Cuba’s history and its present state of torture and oppression – its systematic curtailment of freedom.

    Recent events tell a different story: The story of two terrorist states – Cuba and North Korea.

    There is unshakeable, undeniable, incontrovertible proof of the Cuban government colluding with North Korea in violation of United Nations sanctions regime. In July of last year, a North Korean ship was docked in Cuba’s new Mariel Port facility.

    The North Korean ship, suspicious to even the most untrained observer, left the dock and it wasn’t long afterward that it was seized by the Panamanian government when it attempted to enter the Panama Canal. Panamanian authorities boarded the ship, and what did they find? There, in the cargo bays, under some 200,000 bags of sugar, authorities discovered 240 tons of weapons bound for – where? – that’s right – for North Korea, another terrorist state.

    And yet, apparently this evidence – to some of my colleagues – is not of concern.

    But that’s not the end of the story, M. President. When authorities inventoried the 240 tons of weapons hidden beneath 200,000 bags of sugar they found on the North Korean ship – they found two MiG aircraft; several SA-2 and SA-3 surface-to-air missile systems; missile and radar components; and a cache of small arms and rocket propelled grenades.

    I ask my colleagues, is this the kind of behavior of a tired old benign regime – one that deserves our sympathy? Is this a misunderstanding that does not check enough terrorist boxes? Is this something we should justifiably ignore, falling under the category of Castro-will-be-Castro? Or is this, at its core, the act of a dangerous player – listed as a terrorist state – that we would not tolerate from any other nation?

    It seems to me that supplying a rogue nation like North Korea with a secret cache of weapons demands something more than the loosening of travel restrictions and the opening of trade. It demands exactly the opposite.

    We should treat Cuba and the Castro regime as we would treat any other state sponsor of terrorism – which it is.

    And yet, here I am, M. President, once again forced to come to the floor of the Senate. Once again – to point to these pictures of a North Korean ship in a Cuban port smuggling MiG aircraft and surface to air missiles and ask why should we turn a blind eye to what we clearly would not accept from Iran, Syria, or Sudan? And why, in God’s name, would we want to take this opportunity to reward the regime with cash-flows so they can continue to oppress their people and subvert neighboring countries?

    Why should we accept the lame excuses given by the Cuban regime that – somehow – despite the fact that many of the arms were still in their original packaging, despite the fact that others had been recently calibrated, despite the fact that there was a fresh coat of paint over the insignia of the Cuban Air Force on the side of the MiGs to hide their origin, despite the fact that the entire shipment was covered with a-couple-of-hundred-thousand bags of sugar, Cuba claimed that this was a purely innocent business transaction and that the arms were being sent to North Korea for required maintenance and would have been returned to the island.

    Does anyone actually believe such a ludicrous claim? But the broader question for my colleagues is: Can we and should we simply ignore it and move on? Even though United Nations weapons inspectors found that the shipment was a clear violation of UN sanctions – that Cuba was the first country in the Western hemisphere to violate international sanctions related to North Korea and that the shipment constituted the largest amount of arms shipped to or from North Korea since the adoption of Security Council Resolutions 1874 in 2009 and Resolution 2094 in 2013. I repeat: “the largest amount of arms shipped to or from North Korea.” If that is not food for thought when it comes to easing restrictions against the terrorist state to our south, I don’t know what it.

    That said, in recent years, some would have us believe that reforms led by Raul Castro have placed Cuba on a path to economic progress, but, if we look at the new law on foreign investment that Cuba passed last week, we get a clearer picture of the truth behind Cuba’s economic model.

    Let’s be clear about this new economic model. Under Cuba’s new foreign investment law, investment projects will be allowed to be fully funded by foreign capital. Business taxes on profits would be cut by 50 percent. Foreign companies would be exempt from paying taxes for the first 8 years of operations in Cuba and many foreigners living in Cuba would be let off the hook from paying income taxes at all.

    But think about it. The question is: Who wins? Not the people of Cuba.

    The most glaring omission in this new law is any benefit at all to the Cuban people. Instead of receiving new investment opportunities of benefitting from tax cuts and loop holes, they will continue to live under restrictive laws and regulations – unable to start a business, unable to follow a dream, build a better life.

    They are left to live under the most restrictive laws preventing them from ever realizing their dreams for themselves and their families.

    In fact, the Cuban regime has permitted people to work for themselves – to be entrepreneurs but only 200 types of jobs the government sanctions. They have a list of authorized jobs that includes sewing buttons, filling cigarette lighters, and street performing. Not exactly lucrative start-ups that can build an economy. These “authorized” jobs bear more resemblance to a feudal economy than anything we would recognize as economic opportunity.

    At the same time, the government has moved aggressively to close in-home movie theaters, second hand clothing markets, and fledgling private restaurants that its considers too large or too successful. Why? Because anything that allows Cubans to meet legally, lawfully, and as a group – is a threat to the regime.

    And while the Cuban government offers new incentives to foreign investors and continues to clamp down on self-employed workers, the real economic change in Cuba is the growing role of the Cuban armed forces in the country’s economy.

    Under the watchful eye of Raul Castro’s son-in-law, a general in the Cuban Armed Forces, the military holding company, GAESA, has amassed control of more than 40 percent of Cuba’s economy. Through companies like GAESA, the government and the armed forces – those most loyal to the Castros – are laying a foundation for its future control of Cuba and the Cuban economy.

    On the economic front, I think it’s important to make the point that when people argue for trade and travel with Cuba, they are arguing to do so with Castro’s monopolies. Let’s be clear, regular Cubans are prohibited from engaging in foreign trade and commerce. So we want to trade with Castro’s monopolies? Do we? Do we want to reward the regime?

    The U.S. government’s own report of agricultural sales to Cuba states how every single transaction with Cuba, by hundreds of American agricultural companies, have only had one counter-part: Castro’s food monopoly, through a company named Alimport that hasn’t helped the people one bit. So do we really want to unleash billions to Castro’s monopolies?

    Also, every single foreign “people-to-people” traveler currently stays at a hotel or resort owned by the Cuban military (GAESA). No exceptions!

    So, M. President, how does that promote the “independence of the Cuban people from the regime?” as President Obama’s policy statement upon releasing these regulations states?

    At the very least, they should be compelled to stay at a “casa particular” – a private home – but staying at the military’s facilities contravenes the President’s own policy statement. This hardly constitutes an economic opening for the people of Cuba.

    However, if there is one positive trend to be found in Cuba today, it is that after decades of fear and self-imposed silence, there is a growing number of Cuban citizens beginning to speak out critically, increasingly in public.

    In June 2012, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, known as Antunez, after testifying before the Foreign Relations Committee via Skype – as you can see in this photograph – was beaten and detained for his testimony on human rights abuses on the island. But that did not stop him and it did not stop the bloggers from the Cuban diaspora from getting the word out.

    After decades of being manipulated by the Castros, the people of Cuba no longer identify with the government. And while the government still holds power, its legitimacy is plummeting in the opinions of its people. So after 55 years of dictatorship, it is our responsibility in the international community to encourage this independence and help the people of Cuba reclaim their rights: Rights to freedom of expression, rights to organize unions, rights to freedom of assembly, rights to freedom of the press, rights to freedom of religion, universal human rights, the rights and freedoms that will be the building blocks of the new and democratic Cuba of the future.

    But let us not be misled. Though Berta Soler is now allowed by the regime to visit the United States and Europe, when she returns to Cuban soil there is no change in the status of the Damas en Blanco. Every move she and her courageous partners make is monitored by the Castro regime. They are still physically harassed, intimidated, and arrested. Why? For simply wanting what any mother in any country on the face of the earth wants – to learn of the fate of her husband, son or daughter who has been harassed, beaten, and jailed by an aging, illegitimate regime.

    According to the Cuba Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, there were more than 15,000 cases of arbitrary, politically-motivated detentions since the start of 2012.

    In January of this year, when 30 heads of state from Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the Secretary General of the UN and Secretary General of the OAS were at a summit in Havana, there were more than 1,050 detentions over the course of the month.

    In one prominent case, a leading Afro-Cuban political activist, intellectual and known leftist Manuel Cuesta Morua was arrested after attempting to organize a parallel civil society summit during the visit by heads of state. This simple practice, a practice that is not uncommon and, in fact, is ubiquitous throughout Latin America and the world, is not tolerated by the Cuban regime.

    Instead, Mr. Cuesta Morua faced five days of intensive interrogations and has been charged with “disseminating false news against international peace,” joining prominent activists Jorge Luis Garcia Perez and Guillermo Fariñas, who was awarded the Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament for his dedication to peace.

    He is shown here being taken away by the police. These activists have faced repeated, brutal acts at the hands of the Castro regime – no less violent than the regimes of any other terrorist state.

    Finally, it is important to note that detentions, violence and harassment are not reserved for political activists alone, but also directed at labor rights activists as well.

    In early March, AFL-CIO President Trumka called on the Cuban government to end its harassment of Mr. Cuesta Morua, and all independent union activists, advocating for labor rights to protect Cuban workers, like Morua and Maria Elena Mir and her colleagues.

    American workers are not turning a blind eye to what the Cuban regime is doing to limit worker rights, and we should not turn a blind eye either. We cannot remain silent.

    We must support those like Morua and Maria who are willing to step forward for Labor rights in the face of a repressive regime that will not stop at anything to silence them. As the people of Cuba look to cast off the shackles of five decades of dictatorial rule, we must stand-with and speak out in support-of all those who seek to reclaim their civil and political rights, and promote political pluralism and democratic values. We cannot turn our back on Cuba’s human right violations record for decades simply because “enough time has passed.”

    If that’s the case, M. President, enough time has surely passed in Syria, and Sudan, and Iran, and North Korea.

    To me and to the thousands who have suffered at the hands of these regimes, the clock has nothing to do with our policy options. Engagement and sanctions relief has to be earned – it can’t be timed-out! It must come through real change not Xs on a calendar or the ticking of a clock.

    And the clock is ticking for Alan Gross. On December 4th, 2009, Alan Gross, a private sub-contractor for the U.S. government, working to bring information to the Cuban people, was arrested in Cuba. Mr. Gross is a 64-year old development professional who worked in dozens of countries around the world with programs to help people get access to basic information.

    Since 2009, he has been detained in Villa Marista – a prison in Havana notorious for its treatment of political prisoners by the Cuban National Security Agency. This is not a minimum security prison where foreigners are routinely held. It is a harsh, repressive prison –reserved for Cuban dissidents.

    He is still being held at Villa Marista, and so I come to the floor to urge my colleagues – indeed, to urge the Administration – to do all it can to free Mr. Gross, and keep pressure on the Castro regime.

    After serving four years of a 15 year sentence, this 64 year old American’s mental health is reported to be deteriorating and his life may well be in danger.

    The case of Alan Gross is only one example of why we cannot let up until the dead weight of this oppressive regime is lifted – once and for all — from the backs of 11 million Cubans living on that island nation, isolated from the world.

    M. President, we have supported democracy movements around the world. It is the idea upon which this nation was founded and it is who we are as a people and what we stand for in the eyes of the world.

    We can no longer condone through inaction and outright support – even from some of my colleagues in this chamber – the actions of a repressive regime 90 miles from our shores simply because of the passage of time, or because of some romantic idea of what the Castro regime is all about.

    To my colleagues let me say, I know I have come to this floor on many occasions demanding action. I have come to this floor demanding that we live up to our rhetoric and our values. I ask that we hold the Castro brothers accountable for the years of suffering – the years of brutality and repression that has deprived the Cuban people of the basic human rights we so proudly proclaim to support around the world.

    And I will come to this floor again-and-again-and- again to ask for nothing less. To ask that we never allow the Castro regime to profit from increased trade that will benefit the regime, that will use these dollars for repression, but not put one ounce of food on the plates of Cuban families.

    Let me end, M. President with this photograph of a man being arrested in Havana and flashing a sign recognized across Cuba and throughout the world.

    Libertad! Libertad! Libertad! That’s all I ask for the people of Cuba. And I will not rest until Cuba is free.

    Thank you, M. President, and with that I yield the floor.

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