My Mother and the Onions

Onion seller (14ymedio)

Onion seller (14ymedio)

14YMEDIO, Yoani Sanchez, 6 August 2014 – Who do I think about when I write? How does the reader imagine my texts come to me? Who do I want to shake up, move, reach… with my words? Such questions are common among those of us who devote ourselves to publishing our opinions and ideas. It is also a common question among those of us who engage in the informative work of the press. Defining the subject to which we turn our journalistic intentions is key to not falling into absurd generalizations, unintelligible language, or the tones of a training manual.

I do not write for academics or sages. Although I once graduated in Hispanic philology, the Latin declensions and text citations belong to a stage of my life I’ve left in the past. Nor do I think that my words reach people seated in the comfortable armchairs of power, nor specialists nor scholars who look for keys and messages in them. When I sit in front of the keyboard I think about people like my mother, who worked for more than 35 years in the taxi sector. It is to those people, tied to reality and dealing with adversity 24 hours a day, that I direct my words.

At times, when I talk to my mamá, I explain the need for Cuba to open itself up to democracy, to respect human rights and to establish freedom. She listens to me in silence for a while. After some minutes, she changes the conversation and tells me about the eggs that haven’t come, the bureaucrat who mistreated her, or the water leak at the corner of her house. Then, I ask her how much onions cost. My mother has to pay out three days worth of her pension to buy a pound of onions. I no longer have to say anything, she just concludes, “This country has to change.”

64 thoughts on “My Mother and the Onions

  1. Neutral Observer,

    I don’t know the answer. Maybe it has to do with narcissism and a sense of superiority. All of the people you mentioned had no conscience. The castros, of course, are among the worst of the worst. But they are just two examples in a long list of sociopathic criminals who have been able to gain power over people and hold on to it by murdering everyone in their way.

    The good thing is they are mortal and will die, eventually.

    A friend told me about a review of a memoir by the German historian Joachim Fest in the New York Review the other day. I haven’t read it yet, but it is apparently a very good one for what it has to say about how “civilized” people think they should react and how they do and don’t react to criminally brutal officials who govern them through criminally brutal agents in charge of criminal agencies: in other words, how to be and what to do when the enemy is no longer at the gates but is inside the castle. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  2. Humberto: so the Castro’s kids and family have good jobs. Do you think that Obama’s kids are not going to be taken care of??..what about the Clinton’s daughter…look into any prominent politician in the World and you will find that their family are living better than the average citizen….I don’t see this as any form of exploitation of the Public…Raul’s Administration is working their butts off trying to keep the economy of Cuba from faltering. The U.S. with its regime change in Cuba law and embargo plus continue aggression against the Cuban People is were you folks need to be looking for the causes of the economic despair of the Cuban People.

  3. Humberto: there is nothing in that video that show Castro was living the life of a Rich Man….the girlfriend of Castro’s son is the one that was selling visas for $2000. you guys keep looking for a smoking gun and there is none. The real crooks are living 90 miles away in Florida. The carpet baggers that want the plantation economy back in the island.


    YOUTUBE : La vida secreta de Castro (1 de 5) – The secret life of the Castros- smuggled videos of the CASTROFASCIST CLAN by an ex-girlfriend of one of the Castro’s kid, Antonio Soto del Valle.

  5. Castro the commie hypocrite who lives like a billionaire: He’s posed as a man of the people. But a new book reveals Cuba’s leader has led a life of pampered hedonism and a fortune as big as the Queen’s

    A short boat trip from the coastal city of Cienfuegos, halfway along Cuba’s southern coast, is a secluded tropical island called Caya Piedra.

    Surrounded by warm turquoise waters, with a picture-postcard quota of coconut trees, white sand beaches and unspoiled coral reefs, this two-mile-long Caribbean paradise is the private domain of a single, very wealthy man.

    Locals call him El Comandante — The Commander — and he likes to dock at Caya Piedra aboard his luxury yacht, the Aquarama II, fitted out with cream-coloured leather and rare Angolan wood.

    Invariably attended by an army of personal servants, who are kept on call 24/7 to serve chilled white wine and exotic shellfish, he and his friends while away the days by reading, scuba diving, and attempting to catch fish.

    Celebrity guests who have enjoyed the lavish hospitality there include Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian novelist who died last month, and the late French underwater explorer, Jacques Cousteau.

    Like everyone who visited, they were struck by the island’s stunning beauty and laid-back charms.

    If a single cloud ever did mar the horizon, it was that, every so often, their multi-millionaire host would have to take a break from enjoying the high life in order to carry out the important business of running a country.

    For the owner of Caya Piedra is none other than Fidel Alejandro Castro, the Left-wing dictator who seized power over Cuba in a communist coup 55 years ago.

    Now 87, this self-styled ‘People’s Revolutionary’ — who handed power to his brother, Raul, in 2008 — on paper makes a strange laird for this prime piece of real estate.

    Oligarch who hanged himself in his British bathroom may actually still be alive claims his ally, Europe’s ‘last dictator’
    He has, after all, spent decades cultivating his public image as an unassuming, hard-working man of the people.

    Indeed, the Communist Party of Cuba styles Senor Castro as a cigar-chomping but otherwise modest military servant, devoted to advancing the public good in a country where the majority of the 11 million residents live in abject poverty.

    Propaganda is often far removed from reality, though. And as his yacht, private island and domestic staff demonstrate, this lifelong critic of the supposed excesses of capitalism does not always practise what he preaches.

    In fact, Castro’s lifestyle turns out to be jaw-droppingly decadent — a revelation set out in eye-popping detail by his former bodyguard Juan Reinaldo Sanchez.

    Man of the people? Fidel Castro gestures while addressing the crowd during the May Day parade on Havana’s Revolution Square on May 1, 2005
    Man of the people? Fidel Castro gestures while addressing the crowd during the May Day parade on Havana’s Revolution Square on May 1, 2005

    In a new, 338-page memoir, titled The Hidden Life Of Fidel Castro (published in France by Michel Lafon and co-authored by Axel Gyldén), Sanchez, an employee of 20 years’ standing, lifts the lid on the luxurious excesses enjoyed by the autocrat and his inner circle.

    The book portrays a man obsessed with power and money, who styled himself as a hero of the working classes while living the opulent existence of a medieval potentate.

    Unlike a gilded royal, however, the Cuban leader — whose British apologists have, by the by, included Ken Livingstone, Arthur Scargill and the late Tony Benn — managed to keep his life of luxury a closely guarded secret.

    For that, like any good dictator, he can thank the agents of a security state every bit as oppressive as that forged by dictatorial chums in Zimbabwe, China and the old Soviet Union.

    Sanchez was one of Castro’s security guards from 1977 to 1994, accompanying him on overseas trips to meet everybody from popes to U.S. presidents, and witnessing first hand his boss’s ability to exploit Cuba as a personal fiefdom.

    Fidel Castro with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez (centre) and his brother Raul, to whom he handed power in 2008
    Fidel Castro with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez (centre) and his brother Raul, to whom he handed power in 2008

    Recalling, for example, a typical day spent spear fishing off Cayo Piedra, he says: ‘I can’t describe it any other way than comparing it with the royal hunts of Louis XV in the forests around Versailles.’

    After Castro rose at midday, kneeling flunkeys would dress him in scuba-diving gear, before accompanying him to a gleaming motor boat.

    There, manservants would be on hand to attend to his every whim, whether it was to pour his preferred iced whisky (12-year-old Chivas Regal), or prepare his favourite snack, a whole toasted langoustine.

    Other colleagues would have risen at dawn to scour the waters surrounding the island for the best possible fishing spot.

    As their master fished, security guards (including Sanchez) stood by with Kalashnikovs and harpoon guns to ward off over-inquisitive sharks and barracudas.

    Decades of Stalinist industrialisation combined with mass tourism have left much of Cuba heavily polluted, but Cayo Piedra, south of the Bay of Pigs, where the CIA sponsored a failed invasion of the island in 1961, is described by Sanchez as a ‘Garden of Eden’.

    The vast majority of Cubans have no idea of the existence of the private island, let alone that Castro owns it. Given the absence of a free Press in the country, they are unlikely ever to find out about it. Neither are they likely to be aware of the existence of other crown jewels in their former leader’s property portfolio, which, according to Sanchez, extends to 20 homes.

    His palatial residences on the mainland include a Havana estate complete with rooftop bowling alley and indoor basketball court, and a coastal villa next to a private marina with pool, Jacuzzi and sauna.

    Castro loved sport. His guards were required to make up ‘red and blue’ teams on the basketball court, writes Sanchez, adding: ‘Of course, everybody played for Fidel — there was no question of him losing a match. I remember one day, he gave me a black look because instead of passing to him, I shot to score a basket.’

    To get to the most sinister of all Castro’s properties, you must drive west out of Havana to a former fishing village called Jaimanitas.

    Here lies the so-called Unit 160, a fortress-like building in a complex known locally as Punto Cero, which is described as a classic dictator’s bunker.

    Castro (centre) celebrates the victory of Cuban Revolutionary Movement over Fulgencio Batista’s regime in 1959
    Castro (centre) celebrates the victory of Cuban Revolutionary Movement over Fulgencio Batista’s regime in 1959

    As well as being an arms stash for Castro’s personal guard, it was the nerve centre for a range of covert activities, from torture to surveillance. Yet the property also had a facility dedicated to producing high-quality ice cream and sorbets for Castro, a ‘foodie’ who could not bear the totalitarian junk food still churned out for his proletariat.

    After having been the subject, over the years, of more than 600 CIA assassination plots, Castro was obsessed with the fear of being poisoned, so made sure all of his food and drink was locally sourced.

    His caution extended to having a personal cow, which supplied all the milk he drank.

    Every drop of water he drank came from garden wells, while vegetables had to be organic. Free range chickens raced around Castro’s estates, while rich overseas friends regularly sent other food luxuries. Saddam Hussein, for example, would send cases of fig jam, while shipments of red wine arrived from Algeria.

    The boot of Castro’s armoured Mercedes-Benz limousine always contained emergency supplies of these high-end foodstuffs, along with a small stash of weapons, to add to the Kalashnikov kept at Castro’s feet when he travelled, and by his bed when he slept.

    Every single one of Castro’s fleet of personal Mercedes cars was stripped down and then rebuilt on arrival from Germany, to make sure it did not contain microphones or bombs.

    Castro had five sons with his second wife, Dalia, but regularly met up with mistresses in a property close to Unit 160, which was dedicated to infidelity. In his younger days, he is believed to have had hundreds of secret lovers, and produced a total of at least nine children — facts which the state-run Cuban media are still not allowed to mention.

    His lovers allegedly ranged from Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida to an unnamed, under-age nightclub dancer, who later revealed he had smoked throughout intercourse.

    As he aged, Castro apparently became a regular user of Viagra.

    Fidel Castro, as a young anti-Batista Guerilla leader (centre) while operating in the Mountains of Eastern Cuba in March 1957
    Fidel Castro, as a young anti-Batista Guerilla leader (centre) while operating in the Mountains of Eastern Cuba in March 1957

    When not satisfying his raging libido, Castro’s favourite pastimes, says Sanchez, included watching a five-hour long Russian version of Tolstoy’s War And Peace over and over again in a private cinema.

    He even had an ‘official’ projectionist appointed by the Interior Ministry, to go with all his other staff, including three chauffeurs, personal medics, a butler and a photographer.

    Two members of his team of bodyguards were specially selected because they had the same blood group as Castro, and so would be able to donate in an emergency.

    A professional lookalike — Silvino Alvarez — wore a false beard when he stood in for Castro, attending engagements when the dictator fell ill, couldn’t be bothered to go himself, or was afraid of an assassination attempt.

    Describing Castro as a ‘master of disinformation’, Sanchez says the hard-headed autocrat’s claim to be an enemy of Western values was a charade.

    While claiming to be a ‘modest’ state functionary on a parsimonious salary, Castro was in fact worth at least £100 million — excluding his property assets. But he became enraged if that wealth was ever reported.

    When, in 2005 and 2006, Forbes named Castro as one of the world’s richest heads of state — on a par with the Queen of England and Prince Albert of Monaco — he accused the magazine of ‘infamy’ in a public tirade that raged against the alleged greed of countries such as Britain and the U.S.

    As Cuba’s Chief of State, Head of Government, Prime Minister, First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, he wanted to be known as the ‘Maximum Leader’, not a lazy, avaricious despot.

    Sanchez, who is now 65, spent 17 years working for Castro before getting bored with the job and asking to be allowed to resign. Castro responded by accusing him of disloyalty and jailing him for two years between 1994 and 1996.

    Today, Sanchez recalls how he once viewed the indisputably charismatic Castro as ‘a god’, admitting: ‘I would have died for him.’

    But now he says the man he’d been brought up to admire became Cuba’s ‘master in the manner of a 19th-century landowner’.

    ‘For him, wealth was above all an instrument of power, of political survival, of personal protection,’ he now believes.

    ‘Fidel Castro also let it be known that the revolution gave him no rest, no time for pleasure and that he ignored, indeed despised, the bourgeois concept of holidays. He lies.’

    Following a decade of keeping his head down, Sanchez fled to the U.S. as an exile in 2008, where he now does occasional work as a security adviser in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

    Castro, meanwhile, handed over power to his brother, Raul, the same year, guaranteeing that in the absence of any legal opposition party in Cuba, the Castro dynasty will continue to flourish.

    The original and most famous Castro is now a shadowy recluse who has all but disappeared from public view.

    He continues to enjoy the best food and medical care, but otherwise leads a relatively uneventful life, his joie de vivre curtailed by ill-health and age. And still his people regard him as the good communist he always insisted he was.

  6. Omar,

    I didn’t understand your last post like usual.

    A “drought” means a dry spell, a lack of rain.

    When there are floods in a country because of too much rain, Granma shouldn’t tell the world that Cuba is suffering from a record-breaking drought.

    That’s why Granma is Cuba’s favorite brand of toilet paper. Also, the absence of any toilet paper in the stores makes Granma the only choice.

  7. Hank,

    Good quote. Very true.

    I can understand people who have never been to Cuba living in their ignorant bubbles and worshiping Castro.

    What about the champagne socialists who visit often or actually live there? How do they ignore the evil that is staring them in the face day after day? What psychological problems do they have?

    Like the people who supported Adolf Hitler and didn’t want to know about the concentration camps? Or Stalin and the gulags? Or Hamas and Hezbollah and all their murder and lies?


    THE DAILY MAIL: Castro the commie hypocrite who lives like a billionaire: He’s posed as a man of the people. But a new book reveals Cuba’s leader has led a life of pampered hedonism and a fortune as big as the Queen’s – By Guy Adams

    In a new, 338-page memoir, titled The Hidden Life Of Fidel Castro (published in France by Michel Lafon and co-authored by Axel Gyldén), Sanchez, an employee of 20 years’ standing, lifts the lid on the luxurious excesses enjoyed by the autocrat and his inner circle.

    The book portrays a man obsessed with power and money, who styled himself as a hero of the working classes while living the opulent existence of a medieval potentate.

    Unlike a gilded royal, however, the Cuban leader — whose British apologists have, by the by, included Ken Livingstone, Arthur Scargill and the late Tony Benn — managed to keep his life of luxury a closely guarded secret.

    For that, like any good dictator, he can thank the agents of a security state every bit as oppressive as that forged by dictatorial chums in Zimbabwe, China and the old Soviet Union.

    Sanchez was one of Castro’s security guards from 1977 to 1994, accompanying him on overseas trips to meet everybody from popes to U.S. presidents, and witnessing first hand his boss’s ability to exploit Cuba as a personal fiefdom.


    FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: The Castro family playground- Blake Hounshell Friday, May 2, 2008
    During the past few years family members of both Fidel and Raúl Castro have come to occupy important positions in Cuba’s government. This Castro clan represents in addition to the military, the security apparatus and the Communist Party, a significant force in Cuba’s political and economic structures.

    Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart- Relationship: Fidel Castro’s son
    Position: Advisor, Ministry of Basic Industry

    Col. Alejandro Raúl Castro Espin – Releationship: Raúl Castro’s son
    Position: Chief, Intelligence Information Services, Ministry of the Interior; Coordinator, Intelligence Exchange with China

    Ramón Castro Ruz- Relationship: Fidel and Raúl’s oldest brother
    Position: Advisor, Ministry of Sugar

    Dr. Antonio Castro Soto – Relationship: Fidel Castro’s son
    Position: Investment Chief, Frank Pais Hospital. Doctor for Cuba’s baseball team

    Major Raúl Alejandro Rodríguez Castro – Relationship: Raúl Castro’s
    Position: Raúl Castro’s military guard in charge of his personal security

    Deborah Castro Espin – Relationship: Raúl Castro’s daughter
    Position: Advisor, Ministry of Education

    Mariela Castro Espin – Relationship: Raúl Castro’s daughter
    Position: Head, Center for Sexual Education

    Marcos Portal León – Relationship: Married to Raúl Castro’s niece
    Position: In charge of nickel industry, member of the Central Committee
    of Cuba’s Communist Party

    Col. Luís Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja – Relationship: Raúl Castro’s son-in-law
    Chief Executive Officer of Grupo GAESA (Grupo de Administración de Empresas, S.A.) which supervises military enterprises Alfonsito Fraga, Related to Raúl CastroMinistry of
    Foreign Relations

  10. Neutral Observer: You are of the same mind set of other Right Wing climate deniers…just because it rains, it does not mean that there are water shortages…Cuba is in a Red category for water demand vs. supply.

  11. Neutral Observer and Mrs. Matulovic:

    Mariela Castro makes me ill.

    I came across an interesting passage in a book I am reading. The book has nothing to do with Cuba, but it struck a note:

    “People like [the castros] operate outside the bounds of normal morality. Their evil can become invisible to normal people, because normal people can’t believe anyone would commit such evil. A psychopath can go on for years without being recognized, as long as he is a good actor.”

  12. Neutral Observer and Mrs. Matulovic:

    Mariela Castro makes me ill.

    I came across an interesting passage in a book I am reading. The book has nothing to do with Cuba, but it struck a note:

    “People like [the castro mierdas] operate outside the bounds of normal morality. Their evil can become invisible to normal people, because normal people can’t believe anyone would commit such evil. A psychopath can go on for years without being recognized, as long as he is a good actor.”

  13. Mrs. Matulovic:

    The National Enquirer prints more truth in one edition than Granma, owned by Castro, has printed over the last half century.

    They even have to lie about the weather, as I believe other posters here have mentioned, to explain the constant water shortages in Cuba.

    Cuba is the only place where I have seen news of a “once in a century drought” while the streets outside are being flooded by torrential rains.

    Something else that doesn’t add up is that these “once in a century droughts” occur every couple of years.

    Maybe Omar the analyst can explain this meteorological phenomenon and socialist arithmetic.

  14. Omar,

    Are you absolutely daft? No monarchy in Cuba? Major LOL!!!

    It’s a pleasure to enlighten fools, so let me enlighten you. People “vote” in Cuba a certain way under the guise of free elections, but the reality is that they vote “a certain way” out of fear. Fear of retaliation for their jobs, their rations, their families, and fear of losing their freedom.

    Mariela Espin? Really? Do you believe things that the National Enquirer publishes, as well?


    Mariela Castro Espín, a professor and member of the Cuban parliament since 2013, says it with a laugh, but she does want to stress that she doesn’t always share her father’s opinions, nor does he dictate the way she votes on policy.

    “I have responsibilities and I don’t like to be classified as the president’s daughter,” she says. “Ever since I’ve been a child, I’ve always said what I thought. I’m a part of my family and they have given me certain social values, the same values of Cuban society.”

    For example, her brand of socialism is one where “humans organize themselves according to state policy.” She believes, she says, “in the rights of the people to participate in public policy discussions and I believe in the project Cuba is developing, of experimenting to create a new society with the primary goal of emancipating the human being. I don’t think of it as a socialist model. I think instead of an experiment to discover more fair societies as an alternative to the capitalist system. No one has the right to tell Cuba to copy other models.”

    Asked if it seems right for one family to be in power for decades, Castro Espín called the question “propaganda” and insisted that her country doesn’t have a “monarchy.” Rather, she says, Cuba has “a democratic system of participation. I invite you to go to the Cuban election to see for yourself. It’s the population (that elects) and promotes the candidates. They are humble people, who are working as politicians solely because they are interested in helping the Cuban people.”

  16. The Economist Cuba’s Economic Forecast … government change in Cuba….

    •Substantial uncertainty surrounds the survival of the one-party political system in the long term. Our central forecast is that the government will muster enough support and introduce sufficient reforms to avert overthrow or collapse. Under this scenario, structural transformation of the economy will accelerate over the forecast period, stimulating firm average growth (3.6% per year in 2013‑30). Market opportunities will increase, with new scope for trade, joint ventures and other forms of international business ties. In the absence of free movement of capital, Cuba is insulated from the direct impact of instability related to global investment cycles, but it will remain vulnerable to commodity price shocks.


    INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES: Mexico Struggles To Manage Central American Migration – by Brianna Lee

    Thousands of protesters gathered across the United States over the weekend to call for tighter border security and the deportation of the more than 50,000 Central American child migrants who have entered the U.S. over the past year. But Central American migrants face the threat of deportation long before they even reach the U.S. border. In 2013, Mexico detained and deported more than 86,000 migrants, 9,893 of them minors, overwhelmingly from the “northern triangle” countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

    “Mexico is okay with having migrants within a few miles of its border, and they’re okay with having migrants who don’t intend to stay,” Adam Isacson, senior associate for regional security policy at the Washington Office on Latin America, said. “But Mexican authorities try to stop people from trying to go more inland by setting up more roadblocks than the U.S. Border Patrol does. And so it’s actually hard to migrate by taking the highways, by taking a bus or driving.”

    The exceptions, Isacson notes, are migrants who have money to pay smugglers, or opt for the freight trains — known as “La Bestia” or “The Beast” — that ferry migrants hundreds of miles from the southern border state of Chiapas up to the edge of Mexico City. Mexican security forces are largely absent from these train routes, leaving them vulnerable to Central American gangs and bandits who extort or threaten the lives of the migrant passengers. The price to even board “La Bestia” is reportedly as high as $100 per person.

  18. Good text about Sen. Marco Rubio, Omar

    The guy probably knows more about dominican girls then about cuban migrants, but he is right when he says
    “if you come to this country and say you are in exile, fleeing oppression, and a year and day after you lived here, you travel back to Cuba 20, 30, 40 times a year, it really undermines that argument. And other groups look at that and say, ‘They’re no different than we are. Why are we treated differently?’”

    Anyway, abolish the Cuban Adjustment Act and the problem is gone.


    Buried amid widespread calls that the young migrants fleeing to the southern U.S. border be returned home is a question of fairness with a strong Florida connection: If Cubans who flee their country are welcomed, why aren’t those escaping gang violence and drug trafficking?

    Sen. Marco Rubio says that’s a valid question, even as he thinks that most of the border children should not stay.

    “These issues of migration are very difficult because they involve, in many cases, very compelling stories,” the Republican son of Cuban immigrants said in an interview with Florida reporters before Congress broke for the August recess. “And that has to be balanced with the right of a sovereign country to control the flow by which people enter. … Of all the issues I’ve faced in my years in both the Legislature and here, it poses probably the most wrenching humanitarian ones because no matter what you set the number at or what you set the process up as, you know that there are going to be compelling stories that you’re not going to be able to address.”

    Cubans gets privileged status under the decades-old Cuban Adjustment Act. It has caused resentment among other immigrant groups and led to abuses. Some Cubans obtain legal residency in the United States but then travel back and forth to their homeland. And there is a growing trend of Cubans’ avoiding the traditional entry via water (under the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, those who are apprehended before stepping onto U.S. soil are returned) and going through Mexico.

    Reuters recently reported that “more than 13,500 Cubans without the proper papers had tried to cross the southwestern U.S. border since Oct. 1, 2013, more than during all of the previous 12 months. The 12-month total was about 5,500 four years ago.” They have a name: dusty-foot Cubans.

    Rubio said: “I’ve never criticized anyone who wants to go back to Cuba to visit a loved one — their mother is dying, their children are there. What I do think is that if you come to this country and say you are in exile, fleeing oppression, and a year and day after you lived here, you travel back to Cuba 20, 30, 40 times a year, it really undermines that argument. And other groups look at that and say, ‘They’re no different than we are. Why are we treated differently?’ That sort of travel puts at risk the status Cubans have, so I’ve always been open to re-examining that. …”

    But Rubio concedes he has no plan. He talked about making changes during last year’s immigration debate but did not seek to insert provisions into the sweeping bill he helped write.

  20. The empire and their proxies how it keeps expanding their plantation economic system

    How odd it has been to read all those accounts of Europe sleepwalking into war in the summer of 1914, and how such madness must never happen again, against the background of the most misrepresented major story of 2014 – the gathering crisis between Russia and the West over Ukraine, as we watch developments in that very nasty civil war, with 20,000 Russian troops massing on the border.

    For months the West has been demonising President Putin, with figures such as the Prince of Wales and Hillary Clinton comparing him with Hitler, oblivious to the fact that what set this crisis in motion were those recklessly provocative moves to absorb Ukraine into the EU.

    There was never any way that this drive to suck the original cradle of Russian identity into the Brussels empire was not going to provoke Moscow to react – not least due to the prospect that its only warm-water ports, in Crimea, might soon be taken over by Nato.

    And still scarcely reported here have been the billions of dollars and euros the West has been more or less secretively pouring into Ukraine to promote the cause: not just to prop up its bankrupt government and banking system, but to fund scores of bogus “pro-European” groups making up what the EU calls “civil society”.

    When the European Commission told a journalist that, between 2004 and 2013, these groups had only been given €31 million, my co-author Richard North was soon reporting on his EU Referendum blog that the true figure, shown on the commission’s own “Financial Transparency” website, was €496 million. The 200 front organisations receiving this colossal sum have such names as “Center for European Co-operation” or the “Donetsk Regional Public Organisation with Hope for the Future” (the very first page shows how many are in eastern Ukraine or Crimea, with their largely Russian populations).

    One of my readers heard from a Ukrainian woman working in Britain that her husband back home earns €200 a month as an electrician, but is paid another €200 a month, from a German bank, to join demonstrations such as the one last March when hundreds of thousands – many doubtless entirely sincere – turned out in Kiev to chant “Europe, Europe” at Baroness Ashton, the EU’s visiting “foreign minister”.

    However dangerous this crisis becomes, it is the West which has brought it about; and our hysterical vilifying of Russia is more reminiscent of that fateful mood in the summer of 1914 than we should find it comfortable to contemplate.

  21. China is expanding investments in Venezuela beyond just oil. China seed money has always being targeted to countries that have credit ratings of B or lower while the U.S., IMF, World Bank look for more credit worthy nations and only lend with conditions that help support the foreign policy of the U.S. and Western Europe.

    Economy is trapped in recession

    In its latest report on the Venezuelan economy, Bank of America Merrill Lynch says the nation is “trapped in recession”. It says that despite the regime’s decision to withhold economic data; indicators show how serious the situation is with non oil imports down 20% in the first four months of 2014, auto assembly production down 86% production in the first semester and tax revenues down 4.9% during the same period.” The report estimates devaluation at an additional 229.8% in 18 months. More in Spanish: (El Nacional;

    China’s DAGONG downgrades Venezuela to BB

    DAGONG Global Credit Rating Co., Ltd. has downgraded the local and foreign currency sovereign credit ratings of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela from BB+ to BB-, each with a negative outlook. “Serious macroeconomic imbalance will drag Venezuela into recession in the short term, and exacerbate the risk of social unrest. Its large fiscal deficit, insufficient international reserves and the pressure of significant devaluation of the local currency contribute to an evident trend of decrease in the local and foreign currency solvency of the government,” says Dagong. (Latin American Herald Tribune,

    China’s unlikely partnership with Venezuela

    Why does China continue to invest heavily in unstable and cash-strapped Venezuela? The answer, according to Margaret Myers, lies in Beijing’s well-documented determination to enhance its energy security, particularly in the wake of so many financial and political troubles. (The International Relations and Security Network,

  22. Neutral Observer: Obesity is a problem in the U.S. because the right food we need to eat has been substituted over decades for mass production ideas that has impact our health in a negative way. Why?…because we have more people to feed than we have the right food to supply without destroying jobs in the process. If there are no jobs created, people suffer. The migration issues you raise is easily explained by the fact that people gravitate towards the Western World…why???..this has been the center of power and wealth in the World for a couple of centuries. Migration towards the centers of power and wealth is the real reason why people favor the West over elsewhere in the World, it has nothing to do with democracy, freedom or any of these opiates used to rule large populations. People used to flock to the Roman Empire in ancient times for the same reason. The reality for a lot of immigrants to the U.S. is more humbling than the hear say propaganda of well being and success people talk about…I do not understand how can people celebrate a society that only 37% of the population get to enjoy the full benefit of being a citizen of. As I see it the reason is a primeval one. If a lion is chasing a group of 4 people and 2 of the group are slower then the rest, the faster ones would be very happy if the lion kill at least one of them so that the other 3 can survive. This is the nature of capitalism: discrimination, apartheid, exploitation, privilege, cruelty.

    YAHOO NEWS: Detention of Chilean youth leader in Venezuela sparks protests – By By Diego Ore and Felipe Iturrieta

    CARACAS/SANTIAGO (Reuters) – A right-wing Chilean youth leader was detained late on Thursday in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, sparking protests from officials in Chile and from opposition leaders in Venezuela.

    Felipe Cuevas, who heads the youth wing of Chile’s conservative Independent Democratic Union (UDI) party, was arrested for taking photos in an unauthorized place and for not carrying identification, Chile’s ambassador to Venezuela said on Friday.

    The spokesman for Chile’s center-left government, cabinet minister Alvaro Elizalde, said Venezuela’s ambassador had been called in to discuss the incident. “The government is carrying out all actions it can to resolve this situation, as it would with any Chilean citizen in similar circumstances,” he said.

    In Caracas, Cuevas had attempted to visit anti-government protesters who had been arrested earlier this year, and was detained along with several Venezuelan activists, said Maria Corina Machado, a fierce critic of Venezuela’s socialist government and a former legislator.

    Venezuelan authorities have not confirmed the arrest, and the interior ministry did not respond to calls seeking comment.

    But Chile’s deputy foreign minister, Edgardo Riveros, said Venezuelan authorities “appeared willing” to understand the circumstances.

    Cuevas was invited to Venezuela by opposition figures and met with Machado during his stay, Machado said. She said he also attended the trial of detained protest leader Leopoldo Lopez.



    BREITBART NEWS: Landrieu Blocks Bill to Sanction Human Rights Abusers in Venezuela – by Dan Riehl

    With the Senate poised to pass a bi-partisan bill imposing sanctions on Venezuelan officials involved in a violent crackdown against peaceful pro-democracy protesters, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Mary Landrieu teamed up with Citgo to block the pro-democracy legislation.

    As Politico points out, “Citgo has at times been the subject of controversy and boycott threats in the U.S. because of its relationship with Venezuela, especially during the years of friction between the United States and former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.”

    Despite assurances that the bill would have no adverse effect on refinery jobs in Louisiana, Landrieu appears to have bowed to pressure to intervene.

    “No need for Senator Landrieu to be concerned about any implications for refineries in Louisiana,” wrote one staffer. “The scope of [the bill] is very narrow. It focuses on individuals that have committed human rights abuses against protesters in the past 6 months, has unlawfully jailed protesters, or supported either of those first two provisions.”

    The bill had been introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). While the Venezuelan government has no lobbying presence in Washington, government-linked Citgo recently retained a team of high-powered and deep-pocketed lobbyists with money ties to Senator Landrieu.

    Citgo is a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of Venezuela’s national oil company.

    Citgo … hired two powerhouse D.C. lobbying shops in May — the same month that the House passed its own version of the sanctions bill.

    Citgo hired the firms Squire Patton Boggs and Cornerstone Government Affairs — paying the two firms a whopping $450,000 in combined lobbying fees in the second quarter of 2014. It also has long had the firm Grayling representing it in Washington, and paid it $100,000 in the same quarter.

  25. THE WASHINGTON FREE BACON: Human Rights NGOs dispute AP report on Cuba Democracy Program – Group says AP “manipulated” information about the program to fit preconceived narrative – by Daniel Wiser

    A Costa Rican human rights organization is disputing a report by the Associated Press (AP) this week that its activities in Cuba were covertly designed to foment a revolution against the communist government.

    Fernando Murillo, founder and CEO of Fundacion Operacion GAYA Internacional (FundaOGI), accused the AP in a statement of “manipulat[ing]” information about the group’s HIV-prevention workshop in Cuba. The AP reported on Monday that the workshop was part of a “clandestine operation” overseen by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) with the goal of “ginning up rebellion” on the island.

    “[The AP] manipulated information in order to make it look like FundaOGI had instructions to set up cultural and artistic activities in an undercover way for destabilizing ends, which is totally false,” Murillo said.

    Additionally, other defenders of the USAID program have raised concerns about the AP’s characterization of the projects.

    The AP mentioned FundaOGI’s HIV-prevention workshop as an example of the type of projects USAID supported to “provoke political change” in Cuba.

    However, Murillo said in his statement that the suggestion that his group’s actions were destabilizing “is merely a subjective interpretation of the AP” and “is not substantiated either by the facts or by the documents.”

    The “perfect excuse” quote was taken out of context, he said. He argued that the HIV-prevention program was an “appropriate vehicle” to discuss not only health issues, but also other rights outlined in the Ibero-American Convention on Rights of Youth—a document signed by Cuba and supported by the youth rights organization UNICEF. Those rights include freedom of thought, protection of health, and freedom of assembly and participation.

    Human rights issues remain “sensitive” in Cuba, but the goal of FundaOGI’s project was to educate people about HIV prevention, the rights of youth, and the importance of volunteering in local communities, Murillo said. The workshop took place in a government school and was observed by local cultural groups and authorities, he added.


  26. FOREIGN POLICY: Don’t Believe Everything You Read About the United States’ Cuba Democracy Program – by José R. Cárdenas

    For the second time in four months, the Associated Press has published a gross distortion of USAID’s Cuba Democracy Program that has made it the subject of unjust derision from the legions of U.S.-Cuba policy critics. The news agency evidently believes it has stumbled upon a vast, sinister U.S. conspiracy to overthrow the Castro regime, calling to mind those halcyon days of exploding cigars and poisoned wetsuits. It is nothing of the sort.

    These were not spotty spring-breakers or members of loopy tourist groups that are licensed to travel to Cuba today on “cultural exchanges.” They were seasoned members of Latin American NGOs with a commitment to democracy, civil rights, and human development. Their task was to develop relationships with ordinary Cubans outside of regime control for the express purpose of restoring to them some sense of individual self-worth and dignity that has been systematically trampled upon by the Castro regime for three generations. The idea that the U.S. government was running a “clandestine operation” to lead an uprising is simply risible.

    Our real target was breaking down the barriers that the Castro regime imposes on Cuban citizens to keep them isolated from one another and civil society atomized. Helping individual Cubans to see themselves as human beings with natural rights — indeed, in control of their own destiny — and connecting them to the outside world was part of the strategy. I would venture to say that people on the streets of Peoria would hardly find such a policy as scandalous as AP apparently does.

    Beyond the gross mischaracterization of the program, however, there appear to be other serious problems with AP’s reporting, not least of which is that some of the groups interviewed by its reporters have subsequently complained about the reporters’ ethical violations, including quotes out of context, identifying interviewees despite their request for anonymity, and bullying them into giving answers that fit a predetermined narrative. USAID also criticized the report as “sensationalist” in a strongly worded defense of the program.



    AMERICAS QUARTERLY: Dear AP, Sometimes a Democracy Program Is Just a Democracy Program—Even in Cuba – by Christopher Sabatini

    For the past several years, with almost predictable regularity, The Associated Press (AP) has been producing a series of articles supposedly revealing the secret, unaccountable cloak-and-dagger misdeeds of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in its Cuba program. For all the implied sinister intentions, bureaucratic overreach and shades of John le Carré-like intrigue, though, all the AP has exposed are really just democracy programs—not that different from those that have been conducted in many other countries, often with the support of human rights organizations, local citizens and the international community. The problem is, this is Cuba, where nothing’s ever straightforward. USAID is only doing what it has done in many other countries, without the alleged conspiracy and assumptions of the dark hand of the CIA behind programs that have been universally accepted and endorsed in other countries.

    [Now, full disclosure—I worked in USAID from 1995 to 1997, and as Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) from 1997 to 2008. While I never worked on USAID’s Cuba programs, I did manage and oversee the NED’s Cuba-related democracy programs intended to support human rights and political space on the island. And while I can’t testify to the specifics of many of the programs that AP has reported on, from Alan Gross to the fake Twitter Zun-Zuneo social media effort to the recent so-called revelations that USAID sent Latin American youth to the island to incite rebellion, I can well imagine that there is quite likely less here than AP would want you to believe, and—heaven forfend—that many would actually support without all the overcast of usual U.S. shenanigans. That said, the allegations that youth leaders were sent to Cuba without knowing who was paying is troubling, if true.]


  28. ***
    HI NEUTRAL OBSERVER–Two excellent comments! Keep up the good work. Hit ’em hard–and often! The truth hurts them.
    HOLA NEUTRAL OBSERVER–Dos commentarios muy excelentes! Siga con el buen trabajo. Pegales duro–y mucho! Las verdades les duelan.
    John Bibb

  29. ***
    HI Mario–Winston Churchill, “Democracy is the worst form of government–except for all the others!” A very smart man. More than you!
    Hola Mario–Winston Churchill, “La Democracia es la forma de gobierno mas mala–con la exception de todas las otras!” Hombre muy listo. Mas que tu!
    John Bibb

  30. Neutral Observer,

    I hope your friends get out of castro’s hell hole and are reunited with their families so they can heal.

    My friends tell me gut-wrenching stories of young people desperate to leave the island. They hate it there, but they can’t get out and don’t know how to escape. They are desperate to the point that they are willing to risk their lives to get out of that place. Many times the advice is “Don’t do it. You will die in the attempt. It is too risky.” But they try it anyway.

    So I’ve come to understand what the phrase “Socialism or Death” really means if you live in Cuba. I’ve probably said this before, but I think fidel the sociopath plastered this phrase on billboards and signs all around Cuba, not as a source of inspiration to his subjugated masses, but as a threat. The phrase “Socialism or Death” in Cuba is a stark life or death choice fidel the sociopath imposed on the long suffering people of Cuba. He meant it. He and his brother enforced it. And so it stands to this day. The two of them are murderers.

    The truth is, people are desperate to leave Cuba, but they can’t. They are condemned to live in abject poverty in a system run by a couple of nitwit sociopathic murderers who can’t think their way out of a wet paper bag. These two idiots even fear the internet! I wonder if either one of them knows how to type. I doubt it. Typing is probably not something that is stressed in “How to be a ruthless dictator class-101”

    A panel in Cambodia just a day or so ago convicted some of Pol Pot’s henchmen, murderers-in-fact, with crimes against humanity. The convicts are in their 80’s. The convictions and sentences bring little justice to the millions they murdered. Still, it is something.

    I hope there will be a similar reckoning some day for the murdering castro creeps and their henchmen, the people who kept them in power. They’ve ruined millions of lives and created a diaspora that did not need to exist but for their megalomania.

  31. Omar,

    Lots of analysis, but you avoid talking about the undeniable facts.

    Here are the facts you avoid.

    Over the last 55 years, tens of millions of people have come to the USA to live the average American Dream.

    Over the last 55 years, not one socialist (or any other person) has gone to Cuba to live the average Cuban Nightmare.

    Here’s just one of many reasons for the difference.

    In Cuba, doctors have starved patients to death. We;re not talking average Cuban plebs, who I saw starving, we’re talking about hospital patients robbed and starved to death by their socialist Cuban doctors.

    In the USA, the poorest class of people suffer from obesity. Too much to eat, even for the poorest!

    And then there’s the freedom versus dictatorship fact, which explains some of the other facts.

  32. neutral observer: if Cubans make about $10/month and according to Yoani, it cost three days pension to pay for an onion or $1.00/ onion. In the U.S. it cost about $1.29/lb…depending on size, we are talking about maybe 3 onions/lb. or $0.43/onion. Females in the U.S. between the ages of 50 and 70 years old spend around $201.70/month on food according to USDA. Maximum U.S. pensioners make $2300/month average probably around $1000. Therefore, retired females (estimate) spend 20% of their income on food. The problem in the U.S. is that $200/month for food does not buy you a great deal either. We are talking $50.00/week or $7.14/day to pay for three meals a day or $2.38/meal….Coffee at McDonalds (the most popular senior citizen eatery in the country) cost you about that much (depending on what part of the country you live)….so $1.00 for an onion in Cuba or two bucks for coffee in the U.S….food is just getting plain expensive all over. Scarcity do to over population and excessive consumption plus Global Warming is squeezing everyone. But, because of Global Capitalism which is an economic apartheid system, the hunger pain is not distributed equally to everyone. It gets progressively worse the further down the income scale you are all the way to the Millions who only get to eat one meal a day and some not even that.

  33. Mario

    Ever seen someone starve to death?

    Cuba is such a great democracy, doctors there have starved their patients to death.

    I guess hospital patients should be treated like everyone else in a socialist paradise.

    Except for Fidel and Raul and their enforcers, they need the extra calories to feed brainpower. A necessary evil to protect paradise from capitalism.

  34. From neutral observer:

    Mario, how you fit Singapore in with the other hellholes you like, I will never know. I assume you know as much about Singapore as about Cuba

    But back to my question. Which is why no healthy bum who praises Castro has ever gone to live like an average Cuban.

    It’s not just you, it’s no socialist bum ever.

    You said food is cheap for healthy bums who don’t want to work.

    I mean, in 55 years, you’d think one socialist would want to give it a try.

    Sounds like a great deal. Not one taker, ever. Very strange.

  35. Under almost every article Neutral Observer writes a comment with this idea: “Why won’t you move to Cuba if you like it?”

    Well, I don’t think my personal choice of domicile would interest anyone, but allright, I don’t move to Cuba because I also like North Korea, Singapore, Iran and Saudi Arabia and I cannot live in more then one place at once.

    But I have a question, too: if Cuba is such a terrible, bloody dictatorship why all these “dissidents” won’t jump a plane and leave? They must like it there. Why?


  36. N.Y. TIMES: Stealth Censorship in Venezuela – by DANIEL LANSBERG-RODRÍGUEZ

    CHICAGO — It’s an odd feeling, being silenced. On the Fourth of July, I heard that El Universal, Venezuela’s century-old newspaper, and among the oldest in Latin America, had been sold to a recently registered, anonymous Spanish corporation. Against a backdrop of fireworks bursting over Lake Michigan, I sat at my computer and started copying from its website into Word documents two years’ worth of weekly opinion columns I had written for the paper. I knew a flood was coming — I had seen it happen before. My laptop would be my pieces’ ark.

    Sure enough, last week, I received the following notification by email: “Hello and good afternoon, I hope you are well. We’re sorry to inform you that, due to editorial restructuring, there has been a series of adjustments and we will no longer be able to publish your work. Many thanks.”

    The wording was perfect. My articles could no longer be published not because of their quality or anything to do with their content, but by virtue of being mine. Apparently I had called out the government — for mismanaging the electric grid, borrowing recklessly from China, imprisoning political opponents — one too many times.

    Dozens of other columnists at the paper received similar notices recently. The contributions of others, including the most celebrated cartoonist in the country, have been censored or edited without notice. Some of those spared have resigned in protest.

    El Universal is only the most recent marquee publication to be undone in this fashion since the death of President Hugo Chávez last year. Other casualties include the once-vocal pro-opposition television channel Globovisión and Cadena Capriles, the country’s largest newspaper conglomerate (which was previously owned by relatives of the opposition leader Henrique Capriles).

    Only one of Venezuela’s three big independent newspapers, El Nacional, remains. And for over a year openly critical coverage of the regime has been absent from TV or radio stations.



    FOX NEWS LATINO: Group asks Cuba to clarify the situation of imprisoned blogger

    Reporters Without Borders urged Cuban authorities to offer “a clear explanation” of the status of writer and blogger Angel Santiesteban-Prats, who has been in prison since 2013 and recently was accused of trying to escape.

    “Each day without news increases the risks for this blogger. We demand his immediate release and the withdrawal of all charges against him,” Camille Soulier, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk, said in a statement.

    “The repressive methods being used by the regime recall the worst days of the ‘Black Spring’ of 2003,” she said.

    In 2012, Santiesteban-Prats was convicted on what the press-freedom watchdog described as “trumped-up” domestic violence charges and sentenced to five years in prison.

    Since April 2013, he has been held in the San Miguel del Padron prison.

    Santiesteban-Prats, who in his blog criticized the political situation on the island, has been accused of attempting to escape from prison and since then he has only been allowed to speak with his daughter for 10 minutes while being watched by a police officer.

    The blogger’s family suspects that this new charge is unfounded and that it is intended only to increase his sentence, Reporters Without Borders said.

    Cuba is ranked 170 among the 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. EFE

  38. Agriculture in Cuba has played an important part in the economy for several hundred years. Agriculture contributes less than 10 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP), but it employs roughly one fifth of the working population. About 30 percent of the country’s land is used for crop cultivation.[1]

    The inefficient communist system that shackles the agriculture sector was ridiculed by Raúl Castro in a July 2007 speech.[2] Cuba now imports about 80% of the food it rations to the public.[2] The rationing program accounts for about a third of the food energy the average Cuban consumes.[3]


    Cuba is the world’s third largest producer of grapefruit. Sixty percent of the citrus production are oranges, 36% grapefruit.[5] In the citrus production the first foreign investment in Cuba’s agricultural sector took place: In 1991, the participation of an enterprise from Israel in the production and processing of citrus is the Jagüey Grande area, approximately 140 km (90 mi) east of Havana, was officially recognized.[17] The products are mainly marketed in Europe under the brand name Cubanita.


    Rice plays a major role in the Cuban diet. Rice in Cuba is mostly grown along the western coast. There are two crops per year. The majority of the rice farms are state-farms or belong to co-operatives[18]. Cuba has been a major importer of rice. Recently, the annual rice imports have approached 500 000 tonnes of milled rice. The production of rice is limited due to the shortage of water and similar to other industries in Cuba the lack of fertilizers and modern agricultural technology. The yield per hectare remains lower than the average of Central American and Caribbean countries[19].

  39. UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA WHARTON SCHOOL REPORT :Can Raul Castro’s Reforms Create a New Cuba? -November 22, 2011

    At first glance, say experts, Raul Castro seems to modeling his country’s future after China and Vietnam, whose one-party, nominally communist governments have managed to maintain power for decades while also emerging as globally competitive exporters of industrial and agricultural goods. Look deeper, however, and it is apparent that Raul’s approach won’t turn Cuba into a miniature of those two much larger Asian communist countries, experts say. The key problem for Cuba is that Raul’s reforms are not nearly as deep or thorough as those enacted by communist governments in China and Vietnam. In Cuba, “they are going in the right direction, but the issue is whether the reforms are profound enough or fast enough to meet the difficult crisis,” says Carmelo Mesa Lago, emeritus professor of economics at the University of Pittsburgh, whose new book on the Cuban economy is scheduled to be published in Spain and the U.S. in 2012.

    Mesa Lago notes that in China and Vietnam, local farmers have been allowed to lease from the government the land that they work on for an indefinite time period; Chinese and Vietnamese farmers have been encouraged to care for that land as if it were their own. In Cuba, contracts to lease plots of land are valid for only 25 years. “After 25 years, that contract may or may not be renewed by the government, and the land may be seized by the Cuban state for social needs,” Mesa Lago notes. That’s particularly troubling because “a lot of land in Cuba has been taken over by the notorious marabou plant,” says Adrian E. Tschoegl, a management lecturer and senior fellow at Wharton. It often takes two years just to clear marabou-infested land, Tschoegl adds, so a 25-year lease is effectively cut.


  40. THE ECONOMIST: Rekindling old friendships – Cuba is once again resorting to geopolitics to support a failing economy

    About a decade and a half later, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 plunged Cuba’s economy into crisis, sources of protein were so scarce that Carlito recalled those wasted eggs with bitter regret. Some “Marielitos”, as those who fled are known, returned recently and Carlito was stunned at how prosperous they had become. “We used to call them traidores (traitors),” he chuckles. “Now we call them traedolares (bring dollars).”

    But Carlito is keeping his excitement in check. Construction workers building the container terminal were paid a mere 250 pesos ($10) a month, he says, so the ramshackle town has yet to benefit from the development. None of the 23 firms who have sought licences to operate in the special economic zone has yet been granted one. Even Joaquín Infante, the 88-year-old vice-president of the slow-moving National Association of Cuban Economists and Accountants, urges speedier authorisation of investment. “We need to be more flexible and take more risks,” he says.

    Despite reforms that have brought some big changes to Cuba in the form of private restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts and new co-operatives, the economy has virtually ground to a halt. In the first half of the year GDP grew by just 0.6%, leading the government to reduce its estimate for full-year growth to 1.4%. That is lower than the 2.7% annual average figure since Raúl Castro (pictured on the right, with Vladimir Putin) became president in 2008.

    Investment is the root of the problem. In a report in July, two Cuban economists, Omar Everleny and Ricardo Torres, estimated that the growth in Cuba’s capital stock, such as machinery and buildings, fell to 7.8% of GDP last year, close to its level of 5.4% in 1993 when the economy was in serious trouble. (In Latin America as a whole the figure is above 20%.) From the 20th floor of the Habana Libre, a run-down hotel, not one crane can be seen on the skyline. “The economy is screwed,” says a Havana-based diplomat.

    Supporters of the regime argue that the reforms simply need more time. A profit-oriented reorganisation of state-owned behemoths, such as the sugar monopoly, could be promising; it is just that the bureaucrats who run them are slow to change. Critics, however, see a fundamental flaw in the reform model. Although it has sought to give some people more freedom in what they make and sell, the state keeps a stranglehold on the inputs they need for those businesses, such as seeds for growing crops, or sauces and spices for restaurants, or spare parts for taxis. It has cracked down on “mules” bringing in such goods on passenger planes from abroad.


  41. I couldn’t understand Omar’s latest economic analysis, but Cuban pensioners make about 10 dollars a month, even a bit less.

    Castro is very generous with his money.

  42. Mario,

    Since there’s cheap food for healthy bums who don’t want to work, why don’t you want to move to Cuba? Sounds like a great deal to me.

    I guess all those Cubans who starved to death under Castro weren’t healthy bums like yourself.

  43. Well, Yoani, thank goodness you don’t write for all the Castro apologists and armchair “socialists,” who admire socialism from afar, while they participate in, and benefit from, their evil capitalist societies. Places like Cuba and Venezuela, just for two examples, are cesspools of socialist dysfunction.

  44. Interesting numbers, Omar

    Here some more from the income side. Cubans can breed animals and if they are willing to work bank credit and land usage are wide open to them.A horse fetches 25 000 pesos on the market A pig, depending on the size 4 000 to 10 000 pesos. For international readers: 100 pesos are abour 25 CNY (chinese yuan).

    To breed the animals you need to feed them and to obtain the food they need to work the land the state gives them free. There are more and more opportunities in Cuba but only for people willing to work.

    The cuban system is not perfect, and cuban President admits that. For example, there is still very cheap food available for the healthy bums who don’t work. The “libreta” system belongs to the 20th century and should be modified.

  45. Hank

    Last two anonymous posts and this one are from neutral observer using another computer.

    Since you last were here one other Cuban friend left Cuba, legally this time, through well placed connections and bribes.

    Castro is keeping her husband hostage though, so she can’t break free of Castro’s chains and those capitalist pesos will keep flowing back to Cuba once she gets work.

    Her husband has come down with a deadly tropical disease. There is no mention of this plague in Cuba and so no mention of it in the international press.

    We hope he survives to see the end of the Castro dynasty that caused all their misery.

  46. Anonymous,


    When the inmates begin to think they are running the asylum, it’s best to take a break.

    The castro tyranny must and will go. Time is not on its putrid side.


    I met a traveller from an antique land
    Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

  47. Cuba’s Old-Age Benefits

    Old-age pension: 60% of average earnings in the best five of the last 15 years of employment plus 2% of earnings for each year of employment exceeding 30 years is paid.

    Partial pension: 40% of average earnings in the best five of the last 15 years of employment plus 2% of earnings for each year of employment exceeding 20 years is paid.

    The minimum monthly pension is 200 pesos (2008). ($1= $1 peso)

    The maximum monthly pension is 90% of the insured’s average earnings.

    Old-age social assistance (means-tested): May be paid periodically or as a lump sum.

    Benefit adjustment: Benefits are adjusted according to government decree, based on social and economic factors.

    Yoani…the cost of an onion in Cuba is $20 pesos??? …The above information came from the U.S. Social Security Office: Social Security Programs around the World- The Americas. I believe the average wage of a Cuban worker is the equivalent of $20/month. I think the U.S. Office of the Social Security Administration is trying to show how much purchasing power Cubans have according to U.S. standards hence the $200 a month figure if the Cuban retiree was living in the U.S. with Cuban social security. Therefore, if we use the $20/month average pay, an onion cost $2.00/onion in Cuba. In the U.S. the price of onion is $1.29/lb or going back to the comparison above, it would be like paying $12.29/lb/3 onions per bag…roughly $4.00/ onion by a Cuban retiree living in the U.S. with a Cuban pension…yep your price per onion is more affordable in Cuba then the U.S. for a Cuban retiree.

    Here are some other prices
    About $1.89 for a dozen of large eggs.
    About $4 for 10# Russet potatoes.
    Approximately $1.49 per pound for tomatoes.
    Sweet onions are around $1.29 a pound, a bag of yellow…3#’s #1.99
    Bananas…$.59 per pound.
    Lemons…2 for $1.00
    Oranges….$4.99 for a 5# bag.

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