Cuba: In The Country of Solidarity, There Are No Foreigners

Graffiti painted on a wall and later erased in Havana. (14ymedio)

Graffiti painted on a wall (left) and later erased (right) in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 12 October 2015 — Pepes, Yumas and tourists are some of the names we give to those who visit our country. For many Cubans, these travelers are their main source of income, through accommodation, transportation, dance and language classes. Some also share classrooms at the university, or work in a joint venture. However, in most cases their stay is brief, they are passing through, for only a few days or months. What happens when they come to stay?

A painting on a Havana wall addresses the contradiction between the official discourse that prides itself on the solidarity of a nation, but one where the immigrant has no place. This drawing of Che Guevara with a contentious quote – “In the homeland of solidarity there are no foreigners” – lasted just a few hours in its makeshift place, before the censor arrived in the form of a blue brushstroke to cover it over. For the government, when the foreigners arrive on their cruises, stay a few nights and leave their cold hard cash in the state coffers, everything seems fine. It is a whole different thing when they decide to come and stay. Then, the nationalistic hostility that characterizes the Cuban system shows itself.

Cuban immigration law is perhaps one of the strictest on the planet for a foreigner who settles in the national territory. For decades, living here was a privilege allowed only to the “comrades” of Eastern Europe, apprentice guerrillas, and political refugees from Latin American dictatorships. Diplomatic personnel and some chosen academics completed the map of natives of other countries who would stay in Cuba more or less permanently.

The island ceased to be a country of immigrants, where the crucible of identity joined together cultures far and near. Chinese, French, Arabs, Haitians, Spaniards and Poles, among many others, brought their customs, culinary recipes, and entrepreneurial initiatives to achieve the wonder of diversity. Today it is rare to see gathered around family tables people who were not born here.

At the end of 2014, the National Bureau of Statistics announced that the number of foreign residents in Cuba in 2011 represented just 0.05% of the population. A figure that contrasts with the 128,392 foreigners – 1.3% of the population – that we shared the island with in 1981. Two factors explain the sharp drop in foreign residents: the implosion, in the 1990s, of the socialist camp, whence the “technicals” of yesteryear; and, above all, because our country long ago ceased to be a nation of opportunities.

While foreign residents were leaving, temporary visitors were becoming an economic “lifeline” in the face of an increasing material misery. These latter were, for a long time, the only ones with hard currency, and with it the ability to buy shampoo in the “diplotiendas” (diplomat stores), and to experience the enormous luxury of enjoying a cold beer in a hotel bar. The tourist became the Prince Charming of many young Cuban women’s dreams, the son-in-law that every father-in-law wanted, and the preferred tenant of rooms for rent.

Even today foreigners are seen by many Cubans as wallets with legs who walk the streets, which must be emptied of every coin. It is difficult for a foreigner in Cuba to determine to what extent the friendliness they come across in the streets is the natural kindness of our people, versus a histrionic performance the objective of which is to get one’s hand in their pocket.

Cubans have lost the habit of living – equal to equal – with “the other.” Sharing jobs with immigrants, accepting that people speak different languages on a public bus. Our kitchens have been impoverished by lack of contact with other gastronomic experiences, we have become less universal and markedly more “islanders” in the worst sense of the word. We have lost the capacity to tolerate and welcome other ways of doing, speaking and living.

How will we react when our country becomes a destination for immigrants? Will they be condemned to the worst jobs? Will xenophobic groups emerge that reject those who come from overseas? Will there be NGOs to protect them? Programs to help them integrate? Politicians who don’t fear them? All these questions need to be answered in a shorter time frame than we think. Cuba could again be, very soon, a nation of people who come from many places.

88 thoughts on “Cuba: In The Country of Solidarity, There Are No Foreigners

  1. So preaching Socialism while making themselves and their families rich isn’t something that just started happening. Recently it’s been revealed how different the lifestyle of Fidel Castro is from what his many long speeches have been about.
    While we’re on the subject of family fortunes, the last figure I saw for that of the Castro family was not USD 150 billion, not even 15 billion, but only 1,5 billion. If that’s correct I serously doubt that it’s enough to meet any challenge to control over a nation with 11 million people…

  2. Cuban journalist Elaine Diaz is just the soft side of the Castro oligarchy in the USA! Notice how she does not want to tread on the lack of freedom in Cuba but goes on about how bad access to healthcare is in the USA. Most Cubans are afraid to go into a Cuban hospital for the people! Now those who can pay and part of the elite culturally or politically is another matter.! She sure loves access to internet to express herself though! Maybe she should push to get the Cuban people what she has!

    N.Y. TIMES: What It’s Like to Launch an Independent News Outlet in Cuba – By Ernesto Londoño – October 20, 2015

    Elaine Díaz, the first Cuban journalist to receive a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University, returned home earlier this year and resigned from the University of Havana, where she taught for seven years. Last weekend, she launched a news startup, Periodismo de Barrio, or Community Journalism. I asked her about her plans, the new era in relations between the United States and Cuba and her impressions of the United States.

    Describe the types of censorship in Cuba today.

    To properly describe censorship in Cuba I would have needed to have worked at a state-run media outlet and I never did. My taste of censorship on the island stems from pieces I published on my blog, La Polémica Digital, the Digital Controversy.

    Will you write about politics?

    In Cuba, everything is related to politics.

    How did your year in Boston change your perceptions of America and Americans? What were the most pleasant and unwelcome surprises?

    I realized American journalists suffer from many of the same kind of issues I faced in Cuba. I commiserated with them and realized the scope of the financial crisis our industry is struggling to overcome. The hardest thing was getting sick, and realizing that the deductible of my insurance policy was incredibly high. Once, I sent a photo of a rash on my hands to a Cuban doctor in Sierra Leone so he could diagnose it. I have never felt so afraid of getting sick as I did during those 10 months in the United States.
    http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/10/20/what-its-like-to-launch-an-independent-news-outlet-in-cuba/?comments#permid=16422839

  3. The United States is still after regime change in Cuba. They plan to accomplish this by using Compulsory, Institutional, Structural and Productive Power to accomplish regime change. The five categories the U.S. can influence change is Cuba are:

    1. Voluntary contracting that alters domestic policy or authority structures in Cuba.
    2. The U.S. has the ability to alter the opportunities set facing Cuba.
    3. The United States by virtue of its Power can clearly see “the rules of the game” by which Cuba plays and “fix” Cuba’s own game.
    4. The U.S. can establish the basic character, capabilities and identity of units that operate in the international system which Cuba interact with.
    5. U.S. discourse with Cuba and alter the identity and capabilities of Cuba.

  4. THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY MAFIA TREMBLING AT THE POWER OF INTERNET AND SOCIAL MEDIA! THEY WANT THE CUBAN PEOPLE IN ISOLATION TO CONTROL THEM! DUH!

  5. THE GUARDIAN UK (AP): Cuban artist El Sexto released from jail for planned art piece criticizing Castros

    Danilo Maldonado was held for 10 months without charges for attempting to display two pigs with the names of Raúl and Fidel Castro painted on them – The Cuban artist known as El Sexto has been freed after spending 10 months behind bars for attempting to release two pigs painted with the names of Raúl and Fidel Castro, in a case that international human rights advocates called an attack on freedom of expression. Danilo Maldonado’s case was taken up by international human rights groups who called it a sign of the Cuban government’s continued intolerance of criticism, despite the declaration of detente with the United States a week before Maldonaldo’s attempted piece of protest performance art.

    He told the Associated Press that he had been held without charge since 25 December “simply because I made fun of the highest leaders of this revolution”.

    “I was in prison this morning and they told me to get my things and I obeyed,” Maldonado said. “Afterwards, they told that they were finally going to set me free.”

    Amnesty International and other human rights groups had been calling for Maldonado’s release for several months.

    He was arrested on 25 December as he drove toward a central Havana park in a rented car with two pigs slathered with green paint and the first names, in red, of Cuba’s revolutionary leader and his brother, who has led the country since 2008.

    While never formally charged, he was accused of the crime of disrespect toward government officials, a violation that rarely results in long-term detention.

    “We are very happy to learn that in the end he is being freed,” said Robin Guittard, Caribbean campaigner for Amnesty International. “He’s just an artist who tried to do an art show, to use his legitimate right to freedom of expression. That should never lead people to be sent to prison. That’s a very cold reminder of what’s the situation of freedom of expression today in Cuba.”

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/20/cuba-artist-el-sexto-released-prison-castro-pigs

  6. THE REPUBLIC: Mother: Cuban artist known as El Sexto freed after 10 months behind bars, calls for release – By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ
    HAVANA (AP) — The mother of the Cuban artist known as El Sexto tells The Associated Press that he has been freed after spending 10 months behind bars for attempting to release two pigs painted with the names of Raul and Fidel Castro, the country’s current president and former leader. Maria Victoria Machado said Tuesday afternoon that her son Danilo Maldonado had just arrived home from prison. His case had been taken up by international human rights groups and seen as a sign of the Cuban government’s continued intolerance of criticism of the country’s most important figures, despite the declaration of detente with the United States.

    http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/2f5bad56a169412483fb26b668be8270/CB–Cuba-El-Sexto

  7. HA HA HA! DEAR Mario! YOU ARE SO GULLIBLE!

    THE DAILY MAIL: Being the ex-President’s daughter pays off: Hugo Chavez’s ambassador daughter is Venezuela’s richest woman – By Pete D’amato – 10 August 2015

    The daughter of Hugo Chavez, the former president who once declared ‘being rich is bad,’ may be the wealthiest woman in Venezuela, according to evidence reportedly in the hands of Venezuelan media outlets.

    Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35, the late president’s second-oldest daughter, holds assets in American and Andorran banks totaling almost $4.2billion, Diario las Americas reports.

    The figure would make Gabriela Chavez wealthier than media mogul Gustavo Cisneros, whom Forbes named the wealthiest Venezuelan earlier this year with $3.6billion in assets.

    Others close to Chavez managed to build up great personal wealth that was kept outside the petrostate.

    Alejandro Andrade, who served as Venezuela’s treasury minister from 2007 to 2010
    and was reportedly a close associate of Chavez, was discovered to have
    $11.2billion in his name sitting in HSBC accounts in Switzerland,
    according to documents leaked by whistleblower Hervé Falciani.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3192933/Hugo-Chavez-s-ambassador-daughter-Venezuela-s-richest-woman-according-new-report.html

  8. DON’T BE MISTAKEN: it is tough and frustrating to be a business or property owner in Venezuela and it is even worse if you are a big business or property owner.

    The Bolivarian Revolution is made by and serving the working people, the poor, the old, the disadvantaged.

    The investment, totalling more than 500 billion U.S. dollars, has allowed Venezuela to meet the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the United Nations (UN) for the 2000-2015 period, including the main objective to substantially cut poverty and hunger.

    In 2000, more than 5 million Venezuelans, or some 20 percent of the total population of 24.5 million, lived in poverty. By 2012, well ahead of the UN deadline, the number was halved to a little more than 2.4 million.

    By 2015, the proportion of Venezuela’s impoverished population will be further reduced to 4.9 percent, according to the country’s National Institute of Statistics (NIS).

    In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) praised Venezuela as one of 18 countries, along with Cuba, Nicaragua and Peru, that excelled in malnutrition reduction.

    In June this year, the same UN agency lauded Venezuela’s progress in hunger eradication.

    Since Maduro took office in 2013, his government has allocated at least 62 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and oil revenues for social programs or “missions”, which strive to guarantee people’s basic needs, such as healthcare, education, food and housing.

    The Food Mission, for example, includes a “school meals program” which ensures that some 4.3 million children registered in 6,920 schools receive proper nutrition.

    In addition, the current unemployment rate of 7.1 percent is only half of that a decade ago.

    http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-10/19/c_134728446.htm

  9. Few Americans know that Fidel Castro was ready to nuke the United States, and that Khrushchev took away the nuclear missiles since he knew he would do it. Castro hatred against the United States is so deep, that he did not give a damn that such action sealed the annihilation of the Cuban people and a large part of humanity. On November 1962 the FBI arrested three Castroit agents in New York and seized a cache of explosives and incendiary devices. Their plot was to bomb Grand Central Station, Macy’s, Gimbels and Bloomingdale’s department stores in New York during the holiday shopping rush, which would had provoked a holocaust bigger that 9/11. Frightening what the regime had in storage for the American people. Many U.S. citizens would change their support of the Obama Policy with regard to the Castroit regime if they were aware of the facts.

  10. DEAR Mario! HAVING THE CASTRO “GOVERNMENT” SAY THAT THIS FALSE IS JUST ANOTHER LIE DEAR! AND PLEASE, RUSSIA TODAY IS A MOUTHPIECE OF THE PUTIN MAFIA JUST LIKE GRANMA IS ONE FOR THE CASTRO CLAN! BUT TIME WILL TELL, SINCE EVERYTHING COMES TO LIGHT JUST LIKE THE NORTH KOREAN SHIP CAUGHT AT THE PANAMA CANAL WITH ILLEGAL ARMS FROM CUBA TO BE SOLD TO THEIR BUDDY DICTATOR Kim Jong-un!

    KING OBAMA WONT LIKE THIS ANALYSIS ON HIS US-CUBA POLICY!
    AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: The unlikely chance of a serious human rights debate in Cuba – 19 October 2015

    Nearly a month since Pope Francis ended his historic visit to Cuba, any hope that authorities would loosen control on free expression in the country is fading as fast as the chants that welcomed him.

    At the start of his tour, Pope Francis said Cuba had an opportunity to “open itself to the world”. He urged young people in the country to have open minds and hearts, and to be willing to engage in a dialogue with those who “think differently”.

    Cubans listened, but the government didn’t.

    Instead, the Cuban authorities continued to prevent human rights activists from expressing their dissenting views.

    According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an independent organization, in 2014 there was an average of 741 arbitrary detentions each month.

    Last September, during the month of the Pope´s visit, the number increased even further, with 882 arbitrary detentions registered.

    Activists Zaqueo Baez Guerrero, Ismael Bonet Rene and María Josefa Acón Sardinas, members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU), a dissident group, are three of the activists detained. They were arrested on 20th September after they crossed a security line in Havana as they attempted to talk to the Pope and have been held in prison since then.

    They are believed to be charged with contempt (“desacato”), resistance (“resistencia”) violence or intimidation against a state official (“atentado”), and public disorder (“disorden publico”). If convicted, they face prison sentences of between three and eight years.

    The crackdown seems to have escalated since the Pope left the country.

    On Sunday 11 October, hundreds of human rights activists and dissidents, including members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba and of the group Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) were arbitrarily arrested and detained on their way to peaceful protests organized across the country calling for the release of the activists and prisoners of conscience.
    The Patriotic Union of Cuba is one of the organizations reporting the highest number of detentions.

    One activist recently told me how a bus carrying him and 29 other people was stopped on the way to the city of Santiago de Cuba by 40 police officers.

    “They took us off the bus one by one and threatened us with blows and imprisonment. I was taken in a jeep and left somewhere remote and had to walk for various miles to get home,” he said.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE

    https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/10/the-unlikely-chance-of-a-serious-human-rights-debate-in-cuba/

  11. VIBE MAGAZINE (Video): Art A Crime? Cuban Government Fails On Promise To Release Graffiti Artist #ElSexto – by Tony Centeno

    The Cuban Government has failed to live up to their promise to release from prison Danilo Maldonado Machado, a.k.a. “El Sexto.” Family, friends, and supporters of the out-spoken artist are outraged that Machado has not been released after being held in jail against his will for nearly a year. On December 25, 2014, Machado was traveling by taxi, when agents of the political police (Seguridad del Estado) pulled over the vehicle and discovered pigs marked with the words “Fidel” and “Raul” on their backs. The pigs were intended to be used as part of his art show, later that day.

    According to Amnesty, Machado was arrested and accused of “disrespecting the leaders of the Revolution” but was never given the opportunity to appear in court, nor was he given a proper sentence. He has been held captive ever since. As a graffiti and abstract artist, El Sexto has been known to curate art around his political views, which often hint at his resentment toward his country’s tyrannical government.

    “Danilo is a prisoner of conscience, deprived of his liberty as punishment for peacefully expressing his opinions. He must be released immediately and unconditionally and not be made to spend another second behind bars,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE AND VIDEO!

    http://www.vibe.com/2015/10/cuban-government-fails-to-release-wrongfully-imprisoned-artist-elsexto/

  12. THE ECONOMIST: Cuba and the internet – Wired, at last – Mar 3rd 2011
    ACCORDING to government figures, only 3% of Cubans frequently use the internet, making the communist island the least connected place in the Americas. Those that do require patience: according to an industry survey, Cuba’s dial-up internet access is the world’s second-slowest, after Mayotte, a French territory in the Indian Ocean. Under the guise of rationing the use of bandwidth, internet access is banned in most private homes and censored in offices. In 2009 Barack Obama authorised American companies to provide internet services to the island. But Cuba showed no interest in exploring the possibility. Instead it turned to its ally and benefactor, Venezuela.
    http://www.economist.com/node/18285798

    WASHINGTON POST: U.S. Telecoms Eager to Build a Business Presence in Cuba – By Cecilia Kang -April 15, 2009
    U.S. telecommunication firms could open up investment in Cuba now that the Obama administration will allow companies to operate there, a final global frontier for the Internet age.
    But before cellphone and Internet providers rush in, they will closely study potential pitfalls in setting up shop in the Communist nation with one of the poorest populations in the region, analysts said.
    The Cuban government has not been helpful in allowing its citizens access to communications technology, said David Gross, who was U.S. ambassador and coordinator for International Information and Communications Policy during the Bush administration. Now that the United States has opened the door, he said, “the question is whether the Cuban government will allow people to come inside.”
    Cuba has the lowest percentage of telephone, Internet and cellphone subscribers in Latin America, according to Manuel Cereijo, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Miami. About 11 percent of residents subscribe to land-line telephone service, and 2 percent have cellphone service.
    Under President Obama’s plan, U.S. telecom companies would be able to build undersea cable networks that connect the two nations. Cellphone carriers would be able to contract with Cuba’s government-run wireless operator to provide service to its residents and offer roaming services to Americans visiting the island.
    U.S. satellite operators such as Sirius XM Radio and Dish Network could beam Martha Stewart and MTV programs to the nation. Cubans could also receive cellphones and computers donated from overseas.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/14/AR2009041403144.html

  13. NOW OUR DEAR Omar Fundora IS SIGING OUT THE “BAD INTERNET” SONG!
    GLOBAL VOICE: Cuba Si, Google No: Cuban Officials Rumored to Reject Google’s Free WiFi Offer – 17 July 2015
    Top Cuban officials allegedly have rejected an offer from Google to supply the island with free public WiFi throughout the country. Although neither the company nor the Cuban government has explicitly commented on the matter, multiple news sources seem to have drawn this conclusion from an interview in Juventud Rebelde (“Rebellious Youth”), the island’s long-standing youth newspaper. The interview featured Jose Ramon Machado, a contemporary of the Castro brothers, who after forty years at the helm of Cuba’s Union of Communist Youth appears as determined as ever to instill in young Cubans the values and morals of Cuba’s unique brand of Marxism.

    When the reporter asked Machado what he thought about the value of the Internet for Cuban youth, Machado’s response was clear:

    “Internet access is a great opportunity and at the same time a great challenge, because new technologies are novel and vital, not only for person-to-person communication, but also for development. Everyone knows why there isn’t more Internet [in Cuba]. It’s because of the high cost.

    There are those who would like to give us Internet for free, but they aren’t doing this so that Cubans can communicate with one another, rather they’re doing it with the goal of penetrating us on ideological grounds, in an effort to make a new conquest. We need to get Internet, but in our own way, recognizing that the imperialist intention is to use it as one more way to destroy the Revolution.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    https://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2015/07/17/cuba-si-google-no-cuban-officials-rumored-to-reject-googles-free-wifi-offer/

  14. MIAMI HERALD OPINION: Cuba’s much ado about two little pigs
    Cuba’s questionable human-rights record is on display again over a relatively insignificant act of civil disobedience. But how authorities have handled it, up to now, says volumes.

    The brouhaha is over Cuban graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto, or the Sixth One. Mr. Maldonado has been in jail since Dec. 25, 2014.

    His crime: Attempting to put on a performance-art play that included two pigs named Raúl and Fidel. The pigs were appearing in a performance of Revolt in the Farm, an obvious takeoff on George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm.

    In Cuba — before and after its renewed political relations with the United States — such irreverence in the guise of contempt for political leaders and the regime has been punishable by law. Clearly, the revolution has little tolerance and no sense of humor about these things.

    El Sexto staged a hunger strike for 24 days when authorities announced recently that the artist would be released last Thursday.

    That day, according to el Nuevo Herald reporters, the graffiti artist’s relatives gathered outside the Valle Grande prison waiting for him to walk free.

    It never happened.

    According to Cuban blogger and activist Lia Villares, prison authorities told relatives they had no instructions to release El Sexto.

    Then the artist’s mother was notified by State Security that, yes, he had served the time required and would be released before Oct. 21.

    Was this all some cruel joke? As this is written, the family sits and waits, as does El Sexto.

    In the past eight months, Cuban authorities announced several times they would release the graffiti artist, then reneged. Disappointing? Yes. A total surprise from this mercurial and heartless regime? No.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!
    http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/article39790554.html

  15. Cuba has been exporting its revolucion y muerte for half a century as a geopolitical mercenary for the Soviets and Russia.
    It’s like the docs for hire scheme that earns cash for the Castristas. No wonder they’re at it in Syria too…

  16. The FARC “proceso de miercoles” plan means more communist power in Latin America:
    In the UK they had the “decency” to separate Sinn Fein, now in Parliament, from the IRA.
    No such thing in Colmbia. The FARC will get parliament seats automatically, and judges from leftist countries like Bolivia etc will decide the sentences of the narcoterrorisas. Col. Pres el Santisimo is such a good enemy that there’s almost no need for the FARC to have friends…

  17. The internet in Cuba can become a major polarizing force. This can be used by the United States and its proxy democracy for Cuba organizations to foment civil disobedience in the island nation. In the United States it has polarized the nation. The mix results that researchers find is due primarily to voter apathy and not because the internet is not a polarizing tool for the government or corporatism to use. The revolution in information technology has only accelerated the fragmentation of the national audience. In the era of the Internet, the great majority of Americans can access — with minimal effort — newspapers, radio and television networks the world over. Does this dramatic expansion of available news outlets mean that Americans will be exposed to a more diverse “marketplace of ideas,” gain familiarity with new points of view and thus become more tolerant and accepting of disagreement? Or, as implied by the trend towards greater polarization, will consumers gravitate to politically compatible sources while screening out those who offer unfamiliar or disagreeable perspectives?
    There is no doubt that the Internet makes available an ample supply of “news” that is not screened for accuracy or objectivity. By turning to biased but favored providers, consumers will be able to “wall themselves off from topics and opinions that they would prefer to avoid” (Sunstein, 2001, pp. 201–202). The end result could be a less informed and more polarized electorate.
    Selective exposure is especially likely in the new media environment because of information overload. New forms of communication not only deliver much larger chunks of campaign information, but they also facilitate consumers’ ability to attend to the information selectively. The audience for conventional news programs is hard-pressed to avoid coverage of the candidate they dislike, because news reports typically assign equal coverage to each. But when browsing the web, users can filter or search through masses of text more easily. Thus, as candidates, interest groups, and voters all converge on the Internet, the possibility of selective exposure to political information increases. As we have found, people prefer to encounter information that they find supportive or consistent with their existing beliefs.

  18. Is the Internet Polarizing Politics?

    by Peter James Saalfield

    Has the Internet elevated political conversation by increasing interaction between average citizens? Or is it plunging the country into an abyss of partisanship and ignorance?

    These are troublesome questions for even the most fervent digital optimist. It doesn’t take an expert to see that what passes for informed debate online can often be petty, stupid, and even hateful. Instead of searching out new perspectives, all too many users flock to websites that support their views, pop out occasionally to post an angry comment somewhere else, and then flee back to the comfort of Red State or Paul Krugman.

    Research has confirmed that the Internet exerts a polarizing force on the electorate. In his 2011 book The Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser writes about how search engines and social networks filter out dissenting opinions and offer users only what they want to see. Google and Yahoo draw on a user’s past search preferences when responding to queries, meaning that over time a liberal and a conservative might receive ideologically opposite search results having entered identical information. (Pariser recounts how a conservative entering the letters “BP” into Google received stock tips, whereas a liberal was linked to news stories on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.)

    Similar work by Cass Sunstein, the current Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, shows how the Internet creates “echo chambers” where users surround themselves only with the like-minded. This not only preserves partisanship—it exacerbates it. Sunstein found that pro-choice liberals become more pro-choice if they interact only with other liberals, and anti-abortion conservatives become more anti-abortion after surrounding themselves with other conservatives. The niche driven nature of the Internet is pushing us further and further apart.

    Yet while online political discourse needs to improve, there are still many reasons to be hopeful.

    Despite the “echo chamber” effect, there are places online where debate exists and users interact. Blogs, comments sections, and popular Twitter hashtags are all platforms for people from different backgrounds to come together and put forth their views. The quality of the arguments may leave something to be desired, but talking to each other about politics—even in its basest, most vitriolic form—is a big step up from sitting on the couch watching television.

    Also, the most popular political websites, such as the Drudge Report, attract users from both parties despite having a distinctly partisan slant. Just as there are conservatives who visit the New York Times online, there are liberals who read Drudge every day. It is now easier than ever before to know what the other side is thinking.

    Besides, partisanship is underrated. Research has shown that voters with strong affiliations tend to be more informed than voters who are more detached. A recent paper by Patrick Murray in the journal Political Psychology, for instance, showed that in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, citizens with strong feelings about the war—either for or against—had a firmer grasp of the underlying facts that those who were disinterested. Apathy can be worse than ideology.

    Partisanship also gives voters clear options from which to choose, as Matthew Yglesias pointed out in a 2010 article for The Atlantic. The current hyper-partisan environment is forcing President Obama to embrace left-wing populism a la Teddy Roosevelt. Having failed for three years with a strategy of conciliation, he is now digging in along clear ideological lines. Unlike so many elections in recent memory, the 2012 presidential race is shaping up to be one where there is an actual choice to be made: will you support the liberal position of social engineering through the tax code, or will you place your bets on the free market and globalization? Many voters will find having such clear options to be a big relief.

    If the Internet does increase partisanship, it might not be such a bad thing. But there is no denying that digital political debate needs to become more productive and more intelligent. Improving it will require going far beyond asking candidates to create Facebook pages, or having CNN anchors read tweets on the air. It will even require going beyond building better blogging programs and new social networks, or figuring out a sustainable business model for serious journalism.

    In order to convince people to devote their best skills and intentions to online political conversation, they need to feel that their voices are being heard. The true potential of the Internet will only be unleashed when digital citizens are incorporated into governance itself. Cities, states, and nations around the world are already beginning to experiment with “e-governance” (South Korea ranks first on the UN e-governance readiness index). Some of the experiments will be failures, and others will be successes—we will explore both later on in this series. One hopes that the US government will embrace those methods that sucessfully and efficiently return power to the people. The country will be stronger for it.

  19. During 2015, the Castroit regime ties with Assad and Putin kept growing. Throughout the year, Russian spy ships that monitor U.S. defense networks, have been welcome in the island. In April the Russian Defense Minister said: “We intend to continue cooperation in supplying the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces with modern weapons and military hardware.” In May, Officials of the Syrian regime travel to Havana and met with Raul Castro. Also in May 2015, Raul Castro travel to Moscow and met with Putin, and a senior member of the State Duma Security said that, “As Russia restores military-industrial cooperation with Cuba, it may soon reopen the Lourdes signal intelligence center near Havana.”

    As can be seen, the Castroit regime military present in Syria, should not be a surprise for the administration, it cannot argue it was asleep at the wheel.

  20. N.Y. TIMES: Few in Venezuela Want Bolívars, but No One Can Spare a Dime – By WILLIAM NEUMAN and PATRICIA TORRES

    CARACAS, Venezuela — Pity the bolívar, Venezuela’s currency, named after its independence hero, Simón Bolívar. Even some thieves do not want it anymore.
    The eagerness to dump bolívars or avoid them completely shows the extent to which Venezuelans have lost faith in their economy and in the ability of their government to find a way out of the mess.
    A year ago, $1 bought about 100 bolívars on the black market. These days, it often fetches more than 700 bolívars, a sign of how thoroughly domestic confidence in the economy has crashed.

    The International Monetary Fund has predicted that inflation in Venezuelawill hit 159 percent this year (though President Nicolás Maduro has said it will be half that), and that the economy will shrink 10 percent, the worst projected performance in the world (though there was no estimate for war-torn Syria).

    That would be a disastrous drive off the cliff for a country that sits on the world’s largest estimated oil reserves and has long considered itself rich in contrast to many of its neighbors.

    Yet the real story goes beyond numbers, revealed in the absurdities of life in a country where the government has refused for months to release basic economic data like the inflation rate or the gross domestic product.

    Even as the country’s income has shrunk with the collapsing price of oil — Venezuela’s only significant export — and the black market for dollars has soared, the government has insisted on keeping the country’s principal exchange rate frozen at 6.3 bolívars to the dollar.

    That astonishing disparity makes for a sticker-shock economy in which it can be hard to be sure what anything is really worth, and in which the black-market dollar increasingly dictates prices.

    A movie ticket costs about 380 bolívars. Calculated at the government rate, that is $60. At the black-market rate, it is just 54 cents. Want a large popcorn and soda with that? Depending on how you calculate it, that is either $1.15 or $128.

    The minimum wage is 7,421 bolívars a month. That is either a decent $1,178 a month or a miserable $10.60.

    Either way, it does not go far enough. According to the Center for Documentation and Social Analysis of the Venezuelan Federation of Teachers, a month’s worth of food for a family of five cost 50,625 bolívars in August, more than six times the minimum monthly wage and more than three times what it cost in the same month a year earlier.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/19/world/americas/few-in-venezuela-want-bolivars-but-no-one-can-spare-a-dime.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0

  21. FLEA MARKETS/SWAPMEETS IS THE ONLY TYPE OF BUSINESSES THE CUBAN PEOPLE ARE “ALLOWED” TO HAVE! NO PROFESSIONALS ARE “ALLOWED” TO PRACTICE THEIR PROFESSIONS IN CUBA! THE REAL ECONOMIC POWER IS HELD BY THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY MAFIA.

    BLOOMBERG: Want to Do Business in Cuba? Prepare to Partner With the General – Things are changing rapidly in Cuba, and people from around the world are eager to get in on the action. Wait until they learn all roads lead to Raúl Castro’s son-in-law. – by
    Michael Smith – September 29, 2015
    What isn’t immediately apparent to a person taking a walk on a warm Caribbean night is that all of this—and anything else that stands to make money in Old Havana, and much of the rest of the country—is run by a man who is little known outside the opaque circles of Cuba’s authoritarian regime. A quiet general in the Revolutionary Armed Forces, Cuba’s multibranch military, he has spent his life around the communist elite that served Fidel Castro’s revolution. Yet he is chairman of the largest business empire in Cuba, a conglomerate that comprises at least 57 companies owned by the Revolutionary Armed Forces and operated under a rigid set of financial benchmarks developed over decades. It’s a decidedly capitalist element deeply embedded within socialist Cuba.

    This is Luis Alberto Rodriguez. For the better part of three decades, Rodriguez has worked directly for Raúl Castro. He’s the gatekeeper for most foreign investors, requiring them to do business with his organization if they wish to set up shop on the island. If and when the U.S. finally removes its half-century embargo on Cuba, it will be this man who decides which investors get the best deals.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2015-09-30/want-to-invest-in-cuba-meet-your-partner-castro-s-son-in-law

  22. THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY IS “HELPING” THE FARC GUERRILLA GROUP DIALOGUE WITH THE COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT. BUT YET THE CASTRO CLAN REFUSES TO DIALOGUE OR EVEN RECOGNIZE THE INTERNAL OPPOSITION IN CUBA. DOES NOT COMPUTE!

    CATHOLIC HERALD: Farc guerrillas hope to meet Pope Francis in Cuba

    The guerrillas, who have been in conflict with the Colombian government for five decades, “want to move the peace process forward, particularly with the support of the Catholic world,” Marquez said. “The Church can offer all its experience to help reach a final agreement.”
    Farc and the Colombian government began the peace talks in Cuba in late 2012, hoping to find a way to end the conflict, which has claimed some 220,000 lives.
    After a meeting on August 17 in Havana with the president of the Colombian bishops’ conference, Marquez tweeted: “We are optimistic. We are promoting bilateral cease-fire and righteousness. (The) Church has renewed its commitment to peace in Colombia.”
    http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2015/08/19/farc-guerrillas-hoping-to-meet-pope-francis-in-cuba/

  23. An embargo is the partial or complete prohibition of commerce and trade with a particular country, in order to isolate it. Embargoes are considered strong diplomatic measures imposed in an effort, by the imposing country, to elicit a given national-interest result from the country on which it is imposed. Embargoes are similar to economic sanctions and are generally considered legal barriers to trade, not to be confused with blockades, which are often considered to be acts of war.[1]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embargo

    A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually directed at an entire country or region, rather than a fortress or city. Most blockades historically took place at sea, with the blockading power seeking to cut off all maritime transport from and to the blockaded country; although stopping all land transport to and from an area may also be considered a blockade. In the 20th century air power has also been used to enhance the effectiveness of the blockade by halting all air traffic within the blockaded air space.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockades

  24. For though the human race is divided by dissension and discord, yet we know that by testing us you change our hearts to prepare them
    for reconciliation. Even more by your spirit you move human hearts that enemies may speak to each other again, adversaries join hands, and peoples seek to meet together. By the working of your power it comes about, oh god, that hatred is overcome by love, revenge gives way to forgiveness, and discord is changed to mutual respect. I am an American and I have Cuban roots. My grandmother was born there. I am ready to go there. our nations must rise against the hate and receive each other with love. It will not be easy but it is necessary. Too much for too long. Lift the embargo now.

  25. It’s clear that Cuba is in big economic trouble. Harassing dissidents isn’t going to change that.
    Maybe my recent comment about the private sector was too negative. Some private-dsector businesses like bed and breakfast are already becoming more popular among foreign tourists than the Castrista alternative. This is also where Cubans can get back the pride in what they do. Yes, each business isn’t allowed to grow very much, but collectively they can take over whole sectors, when nobody wants the govt. alternative any more…

  26. Omar,
    Quite interesting the polarization topic and it was worth watching.
    I wouldn’t say the “dissidents” have something to do with it. They have no brains to understand it.
    Their role is to parrot out what is good for Washington. At this moment it’s “human rights, human rights” and if someone will tell them that bombing a hospital is good for “human rights” they will bomb the hospitals.

  27. Conventional wisdom says right is right, left is left, and never the twain shall meet when it comes to preferred online news sources.

    But there is no evidence that the internet is becoming more segregated over time, according to research from Chicago Booth professors Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro.

    In the latest edition of our Big Question video series, Gentzkow, Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago Law School, and Jim Kirk, editor-in-chief of the Chicago Sun-Times, discussed whether the internet reflects or reinforces political opinions.

    There is some superficial evidence of a politically segregated cyberspace. Leiter noted that right wing blogs typically reference other right wing blogs, and the same for left wing blogs, for example.

    But one-sided blogrolls do not a phenomenon make. “While I’m on the left end of the spectrum, I tend to read far more right wing blogs,” Leiter said.

    It could be that the internet is a good platform for vocal minorities, Kirk suggested. “The left will always read what the right writes, and vice versa,” he said.

    If anything, technology has made it easier to access media meant for the other side, as well as engage across the aisle.

    “If each person were to reach out and shake hands with one randomly chosen person on the same website, those handshakes would be fifty-five percent among people who have the same political views on a liberal-conservative dimension and forty-five percent among people who are opposite,” Gentzkow explained.

  28. Why dissidents are interested in open internet in Cuba….polarization inside Cuba….divide and conquer.

  29. Sandokan

    Dump your Merriam-Webster dictionary because it has capitalist bias.
    “Blockade” in revolutionary terms is the situation where Cuban airline is prohibited from opening a sales office in New York.

  30. The American people are hungry for change
    by: Rick Nagin
    July 16 2015
    tags: Columbus, festival, Communist Party, socialism, jobs

    Nagin
    Speech given at the Comfest, June 28th, Columbus Ohio.

    Hello, sisters and brothers: My name is Rick Nagin. I’m the Ohio District Organizer of the Communist Party USA.

    Wow, what a week it has been! As Bob Dylan said, ‘The times they are a-changing!” We can really celebrate the historic decisions of the Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act and affirming the constitutional right of people, regardless of their sexual orientation to marry the person they love. In addition, after the horrible racist massacre in Charleston cities and states across the South are taking down Confederate flag, the Southern swastika. They’re taking it off public buildings license plates and merchandise in national parks and retail stores like Walmarts.

    And I will tell you about another change that you may not have heard of, but is maybe even more important. Gallup has been doing polls about people’s attitudes toward socialism. Support for socialism has been steadily rising over the past decade and last Monday they reported that nearly half the people -47%- would vote for a socialist for president. For Democrats it’s 59% and for young people 18-29, it goes up to 69%.

    The American people are hungry for change. They are overwhelmingly looking for a better life. We know that in the richest country in human history we should not have to be struggling so hard to make ends meet. There should not be so much poverty, insecurity and desperation. There’s plenty of money to solve our problems. American workers are the most productive in the world. Each year they create more wealth than any other country in the world. The problem is that under the rules of capitalism and the laws we now have, the bulk of that wealth is monopolized by tiny group of billionaires. The richest 1% of families have $30 trillion in assets – that’s $30 million for each of their families Well it’s time to change those rules and those laws. Overwhelmingly the American people favor taxing this excessive wealth and using it to meet the needs of the people. – to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, to develop renewable energy industry and to provide high quality free health care and education for all.

    The American people are tired of attacks on our living standards and democratic rights by extremist politicians We are tired of the attacks by Republicans like Gov. Kasich on the right of workers to bargain collectively, on the right of everyone to have full access to vote, on the right of women to control their bodies. We support the effort of hard-working, law-abiding immigrants to become citizens and we insist on the elementary right of all people, regardless of the color of their skin, to walk and drive freely in their communities, shop in stores, have their children play with toys in parks without fear of being stopped, arrested,harassed or gunned down by those who dishonor the respected uniform of law enforcement. We are tired of the systemic racism that divides working people and cripples our political strength and we are tired of having to live in communities awash with guns and gun violence solely to satisfy the greed of gun manufacturers and the crazy fantasies of extremists who dream about race war and insurrection. We are tired of the endless wars and we are tired of living with the growing threat of environmental catastrophe.

    We can do better. We want a better life.

    The Communist Party has been fighting for a better life for the past 96 years -for socialism – a just, democratic society which puts people before private profits, guarantees equal rights for all and promotes world peace. We seek to strengthen, build and unite the grassroots movements – organized labor, the civil rights and #BlackLivesMatter movements, the environmental movement, and every struggle where ordinary people stand and fight for their rights. We work in the electoral-legislative arena and it’s great that today one of the leading Democratic candidates is a socialist who is getting such an enthusiastic response We wish Bernie Sanders all the best – Go Bernie! – but, regardless of who the Democratic nominee is, we will be working with our brothers and sisters in labor and the grassroots movements to do everything possible to prevent a takeover of the federal government by the right-wing extremists and their fascist-minded financial backers. We can’t sit this out. Too much is at stake. The next president could choose many new Supreme Court Justices and if that president is a Republican it will be a disaster for our living standards, our democracy,for world peace and our environment for a long time to come. We know what they want and what they do when they get power. They want to impose austerity on the American people. They want to destroy basic democratic institutions -our trade unions and public schools and strangle all our democratic rights. We can’t let that happen.

    Please stop by our booth and pick up some literature. We have clubs throughout Ohio and are helping to build student chapters young communists. We invite you join us in the effort to clear the path to socialism in America.

  31. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary this is the definition:
    Blockade: the isolation by a warring nation of an enemy area (as a harbor) by troops or warships to prevent passage of persons or supplies.
    Examples:

    The United States placed a naval blockade around Cuba, ordered by President Kennedy, during the Cuba missile crisis in 1962, to prevent Soviets medium-range missiles, capable of carrying nuclear warheads, to reach Cuba.

    North Vietnamese ports were mined and blockaded by the United States in 1972 during the Vietnam War, to prevent Soviets from delivering supplies to Vietnam.

    A blockade historically take place at sea, with the blockading power seeking to cut off all maritime transport from and to the blockaded country. Blockades should not be confused with embargos, which are legal barriers to trade

    Embargo: A legal prohibition by a government on certain or all trade with a foreign nation (trade embargo)

    As we can see the economic sanctions of U.S. against the Castroit tyrannical monarchy is an embargo, not a blockade. The U.S. embargo is to the communist system and its members and not the Cuban people.

  32. Don’t worry, Humberto, Buena Vista would also be censored in Cuba if they went to perform in front of the war criminals, which US military is. I wonder if this Celia Cruz knew of the Hiroshima crime when she was singing in Guantanamo?

  33. CUBA EXPORTED FOOD AND OTHER ITEMS PRIOR TO THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY MAFIA’S TAKEOVER IN 1959. NOW ITS A BROKE, DEADBEAT STATE INCAPABLE TO FEED ITS PEOPLE!

    THE GUARDIAN UK: ‘There is no money’: cash-strapped Cuba is forced to cut vital imports – Low commodity prices, drought and Venezuela’s economic crisis have led to a cash shortage for the country, which imports more than 60% of its food – Friday 16 October 2015

    Low commodity prices, a drought at home and Venezuela’s economic crisis have created a cash shortage for Cuba’s communist government, restricting its ability to trade just as it could be taking advantage of an economic opening with the United States.

    State companies have cut imports and are seeking longer payment terms from suppliers, diplomats and foreign business people say.

    The cash crunch, combined with Cuba’s hesitancy to embrace a recent softening of the US economic embargo, demonstrate some of the complications US companies face in Cuba even though Washington is chipping away at the sanctions.

    The Caribbean island’s cash flow has been cut by low prices for nickel, one of its leading exports, as well as for oil.

    Cuba receives oil on favorable terms from Venezuela and refines and resells some of it in a joint venture with its socialist ally. But prices for refined products are down in tandem with crude.

    “There is no money,” said the foreign director of a manufacturing firm in a joint venture with Cuba. Like others interviewed for this story, the director wished to remain anonymous to avoid annoying the government.

    Comments about the liquidity shortage are echoed by others doing business with Cuba even with tourism up 17% this year.

    “Cuba is clearly feeling the squeeze,” said the commercial attache of one of the country’s top trading partners. “They are falling behind on some payments and asking suppliers for credit terms of 365 days or longer, compared with 90 days to 180 days.”

    The economy minister, Marino Murillo, speaking to the national assembly in July, said export revenue had been less than expected and “adjustments” would be made.

    Identifying those adjustments is difficult as Cuba’s finances are opaque. It is not a member of any international lending organization and the local currency has no value abroad.
    Cuba imports more than 60% of its food and more than 50% of its oil, but the benefits from lower international commodity prices have been offset by the need for more imports due to the worst drought in more than a century.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/16/cuba-cash-shortage-imports-oil-commodities

  34. DEAR Mario! YOU REALLY NEED TO USE A DICTIONARY! CUBA HAS AN EMBARGO NOT A BLOCKADE DEAR! AND BUENA VISTA HAS TOURED THE “BAD OLD USA” A MILLION TIMES, WHILE CELIA CRUZ AND OTHER CUBAN ARTISTS ARE STILL BANNED FROM CUBAN AIRWAVES AND TELEVISION! NOW THAT IS AN ARTISTIC BLOCKADE!

    BLOCKADE is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually directed at an entire country or region, rather than a fortress or city. Most blockades historically took place at sea,

    CUBAN EXILE QUARTER: Celia Cruz still banned in Cuba but International media remains silent – Thursday, August 23, 2012
    On August 8, 2012 – The stories specifically mentioned Celia Cruz as one of the artists whose music would return to Cuban radio. Their is only one problem. It is not true. Diario de Cuba reported on August 21, 2012 that Tony Pinelli, a well known musician and radio producer, distributed an e-mail in which Rolando Álvarez, the national director of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television Instituto Cubano de Radio y Televisión (ICRT) confirmed that the music of the late Celia Cruz would continue to be banned. The e-mail clearly stated: “All those who had allied with the enemy, who acted against our families, like Celia Cruz, who went to sing at the Guantanamo Base, the ICRT arrogated to itself the right, quite properly, not to disseminate them on Cuban radio ”
    http://cubanexilequarter.blogspot.com/2012/08/celia-cruz-still-banned-in-cuba-but.html

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