To Cusio And Libna, Wherever You Are

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 22 February 2016 — He was an acknowledged homosexual and she a convinced Jehovah’s Witness. One lived in the same tenement where I was born and the other in the dreaded “218,” where violence and sewage competed for a starring role. Cusio and Libna should have grown up with the conviction that every sexual orientation or religious belief is respected and necessary, provided it does not imply violence against the other.

They achieved something unthinkable in the Cuba of the eighties: reaffirming that beds and beliefs belong to all of us, and no ideology should interfere in them. They were the true survivors of uniformity, the shipwrecks of the storm of “parameterization” and police raids. Now in my forties, I continue to owe a debt to the lesson in plurality they taught me.

Cusio experienced abuse and neglect, but he was always smiling. From Libna, I learned patience, to swallow hard when everything is against me, and keep going. I lost count of all the humiliations I faced for not wearing the neckerchief, that piece of cloth that was making my neck itch and that now reminds me more of the yoke used on oxen than any ideological commitment.

One day I lost sight of both of them. We grew up, reached adulthood, and the game of childhood ended. I know Cusio stayed with his adoptive parents until their final days, in a Cuba where material poverty results in so many old people being abandoned. Of Libna, not a trace. I don’t know if she is still living on the island or if she decided to leave, with her persecuted beliefs, for some other place.

As time goes on I think about them more. I appreciate the lesson of humility that developed before my eyes, without expecting anything from me, not a vindication, not even a hug.

37 thoughts on “To Cusio And Libna, Wherever You Are

  1. University of Texas at Austin – Knight Center Journalism in the Americas
    17th International Symposium on Online Journalism
    SATURDAY, APRIL 16 – 9:00-9:45 a.m.
    Keynote speaker: Yoani Sanchez, founder and director, 14ymedio, Cuba
    Chair: Janine Warner, founder and executive director, SembraMedia
    Yoani Sánchez will explain how and why she created 14ymedio, “Cuba’s first independent news platform”

    Because of her desire to be an independent voice for Cuban society,
    Yoani Sánchez has been arrested, previously was prohibited from leaving
    her country and has been made the subject of smear campaigns. Despite
    those challenges, her independent news platform 14ymedio is approaching its second anniversary of delivering news and opinion from inside Cuba.

    On April 16 at the 17th International Symposium on Online Journalism
    at the University of Texas at Austin, Sánchez will share her
    experiences at 14ymedio and discuss the current state of technology and
    journalism in Cuba. ISOJ is a global conference organized by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. Registration is open, but seats are limited. Register now to join media executives, journalists and scholars from around the world in Austin on April 15 and 16, 2016.


  2. Obama trip will invigorate the Castroit tyrannical regime. The regime was facing a very tough situation with Venezuela in the brink of an economic meltdown. He has been throwing a lifeline to the regime. Obama trip will be another achievement in his hall of failures.

    Obama in his visit to Cuba will raid the Cuba Railroad, one of the wonder of the Castroit regime. No doubt he will be astonishingly surprise by the slowest, cheapest and least reliable way to cross the country

    Click link below for full article by Adam Glanzman about the Cuba’s Railroad.

  3. The sad spectacle of Obama’s upcoming trip to Cuba

    By Ed Rogers February 19, 2016

    The White House announcement that President Obama will be making a trip to Cuba next month was muted by the fact that Donald Trump was shouting down Pope Francis. Trump’s lack of judgment and grace was once again on blaring display, which meant the president’s humiliating capitulation to Cuba didn’t get the attention it deserves.

    If President Obama had called a meeting after his re-election and asked his advisers what he could do to strengthen the Castro regime during his last four years in office, I don’t think the administration would have done anything different. It is a sad realization, but it’s something of a fitting piece to the end of the Obama presidency that the president is giving a helping hand to one of the last and most brutal communist regimes in the world. And in Cuba, what is good for the regime is bad for the people. There is no argument to be made that Obama’s gifts to the Castro regime have produced any dividends that have benefited the Cuban people – or, for that matter, Americans. Isn’t American foreign policy supposed to protect American interests first and foremost? How is it that strengthening the Castro regime is good for Americans?

    Experts who have followed Cuba and Latin American policy almost universally denounce the president’s unilateral actions in normalizing relations with Cuba. And Cuban dissidents privately say they have given up on America because America has obviously given up on them. If there are any doubts, the coup de grace will be delivered when the President of the United States lands in Havana and lends our country’s credibility and stature to the murderous Cuban regime. Just picture President Obama solemnly reviewing Cuban troops and walking the red carpet in tribute to the Cuban military, the enemy of freedom around the world and the instrument of the Castro regime’s callous murder of thousands as they have tried to flee from oppression.

    Again, it’s a sad spectacle and it’s too bad it’s not a more vivid part of the 2016 presidential campaign. The candidate with the most informed view on the Cuban regime and U.S. policies toward Cuba is probably Jeb Bush, yet he has obviously struggled with message delivery. Donald Trump, although he says he would (of course) have “made a better deal,” virtually echoes President Obama’s approach to Cuba. Perhaps you can excuse Trump because he is ignorant, but President Obama and his advisers have affirmatively embraced an enemy of America. He has empowered those who brutalize their own people and given a helping hand to a country that has been an infection in the region for decades. President Obama has single-handedly prolonged the Castro regime’s rule and probably made it more certain that they will be able to orchestrate a transition to their own liking, which means there is no end in sight to the brutality and the instability that they have wrought.

    CAPITOL HILL CUBANAS: Cuba Sentences Four U.S. Residents to Coerce Obama Ahead of Trip – Tuesday, March 1, 2016
    On the same day that North Korea releases a “confession” from an American student for “hostile acts” against the Kim regime, Cuba’s regime sentences four U.S. residents (two of whom are American citizens) to prison terms of 10-15 years for “hostile acts.” The playbook and goal of both regimes is clear: To (once again) coerce the Obama Administration. The four U.S. residents are Jose Ortega Amador, Obdulio Rodriguez Gonzalez, Raibel Pacheco Santos and Felix Monzon Alvarez. They were arrested in May 2014 — right in the midst of Obama’s secret negotiations with the Castro regime — and hadn’t been heard from since.

    One of them, Raibel Pacheco Santos, is the son of a former Castro regime official who defected in Mexico in 2012. The family believes his arrest was retaliatory.

    Now, nearly two years later, as President Obama prepares to travel to Cuba (with a prior prep-trip by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry), it was announced that these four U.S. residents have been handed sentences of 10-15 years for “crimes against the internal security of the state.”

    “This is to fill the backpack of requests to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry [prior to Obama’s visit],” a relative of one of the imprisoned U.S. residents told 14ymedio.



    FINANCIAL POST: How Cuba was destroyed – Patrick Luciani

    Now that President Obama has opened relations with Cuba, and plans to visit this month, Canadians are saying, “Let’s get down there before Americans ruin the place.” Too late: the ruin began with the 1959 revolution.
    Life under dictator Fulgencio Batista certainly wasn’t a proud time for Cuba. But here’s what we forget: Cuba had an economy that grew throughout the 1950s with rising industrial and agricultural wages comparable to those in Europe. Workers were entitled to one-month paid holiday, an eight-hour workday (going back to 1933), and mothers were given six-weeks leave before and after childbirth.
    Although GDP per capita was one-sixth that of the U.S., pre-revolutionary Cuba enjoyed Latin America’s highest per capita consumption of meats, fruits and vegetables along with high levels of ownership of cars, telephones and radios.There were 58 different daily newspapers.
    By the late 1950s, Cuba had more doctors per capita than the U.K. and the lowest infant-mortality rate in Latin America and the 13th-lowest in the world. Today, hard currency is earned by sending talented doctors abroad while their families are held back to discourage defections.

  6. My dearest, carisisimo Humberto, we are on the same side in this fight, we shouldn’t fight. We see Cuba from different angles, but when we look closer they’re not that different. You’re Cuban-American and I’m a European who lives in the Greater Carribean area not very far south of Cuba.
    Actually I’m a rare breed of European in this context. Most people from my continent who have an opinion about what goes on in our region are CastroChavistas, Lalaland dwellers like some of our resident scribblers. Clueless is much too kind a word to describe them.
    I never ever suggested that we should cooperate with the Castristas or any rulers like them. Real political change hasn’t happened in China and Vietnam , but people are sending much stronger messages to the govts now than not so many years ago. In this context ICT is the great enabler, and Yoani has been emphasising the importance of it also in Cuba.
    With the tractors I mentioned farmers can produce more food and bring down prices in farmers’ markets, and then people can spend more on ICT. That’s not rocket science, just basic economics.
    Yes, the Castristas play dirty, hacen trampa, but they have more and more fingers stuck in the dike. They also try to become tougher than the last generation like in North Korea, but that won’t guarantee that they can resist change forever. The Chinese govt is sensitive to issues like corruption and pollution, but Latinos and Carribeans – I’m trying to be polite here – aren’t Chinese.
    Then it’s very easy to draw the lines to Venezuela, FARC and on to the leftist/populist govts of Latin America…

  7. A totalitarian left-wing regime is extremely harder to get rid of than a right-wing dictatorship. The Castroit regime will not allow free election that will cost them losing power. Cubans known better than to expect help from the Obama administration or the Pope. As Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White said, “The European Union, the U.S.A., Pope Francis — they have turned their backs on us.” She also said that Obama had given “a green light to the Cuban government to crush civil society.”


    NEWSWEEK OPINION: WHY ARE CASTRO’S WORST CRIMES BEING ERASED? — BY JOHN SUAREZ — Even before President Barack Obama’s trip to Cuba next month, his administration has looked to rewrite the history of the Castros’ worst crimes. An example of this was in 2014, when the Obama administration commuted the double life sentence of Gerardo Hernández.
    Hernández had been in jail for conspiracy to commit murder through his actions related to the 1996 downing of aircraft owned by the anti-Castro nonprofit “Brothers to the Rescue.” Brothers to Rescue is a Miami based organization, formed by Cuban exiles, which advocates against the Castro dictatorship.
    The atrocities took place in 1996, when two Brothers to the Rescue planes were shot down by Cuban jets over international airspace, killing four. Two more Cuban fighters chased a third Brothers to the Rescue plane to within three minutes of downtown Key West, but failed to shoot it down.

    This plane returned and provided critical information on what had occurred. If it had been shot down, the Cuban government had a cover story in place to justify the shoot-down.

    In order to carry out the attack, the Castro regime had a spy, who had infiltrated Brothers to the Rescue, initially pose as a survivor in Cuba to confirm the regime’s story. But this story imploded when the third plane made it back to Florida.

    The objective of the Castro Regime was to destroy relief organization while at the same time taking attention away from a crackdown on a national opposition gathering in Cuba.

    This was happening in the midst of a warming relationship that started in 1994, between the Clinton administration and Castro that included secret joint military exercises.

    Hernández was set free by the Obama administration and was returned to Cuba the same day his sentence was commuted. Two days later, on December 19 2014, Obama sought to rewrite the history of the incident, stating in a press conference that “[i]t was a tragic circumstance that ended up collapsing talks that had begun to take place.”

    Historical and legal records demonstrate that Obama is wrong.


    YOUTUBE: Ros-Lehtinen Challenged Sec. Kerry On the Worsening Human Rights Situation In Cuba

  10. “Well…I see our Right Wing friend Humberto is in full form” – Omar Fundora



    PEOPLE MAGAZINE: ‘I’m a Terrible Cuban’ – One Editor’s Powerful Journey to His Past – By Armando Correa (PEOPLE EN ESPAÑOL’s editor in chief) – From the time I left in 1991, Cuba has been a terrible nightmare for me. So, when Cevin Bryerman, vice president and editor of Publishers Weekly, told me last summer he was organizing a historic trip to Cuba – the first visit by editors and distributors of books and magazines from the U.S. – and that he wanted PEOPLE EN ESPAÑOL to be the only Hispanic publication to be part of that group, I was somewhat skeptical. First, we had to see if the Cuban government would agree to host a group that is involved with publications and magazines, one that stands for the free dissemination of information. Secondly, as a Cuban exile that is now a U.S. citizen, I needed a special permit to enter Cuba, which for the past 20 years has required people like me to get not only this permit but also a Cuban passport – a process that costs a small fortune.

    As the trip’s date neared and we all started to receive flight confirmations, my heart began to race. Monique and I wondered whether we would be allowed to go. In our most recent PEOPLE EN ESPAÑOL Festival, held in New York this past fall, we prominently featured Cuban and Cuban-American artists like Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Pitbull, whose music is banned on the island. And to top it off, we had also featured a panel with a vilified independent journalist, Yoani Sanchez, who is allowed to travel outside the island; Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, who was detained for a few months there after trying to do a performance in Revolution Square during the Art Biennial in Havana; and political activist Rosa María Payá, the daughter of Oswaldo Payá who died in Cuba in a car accident that his family claims was no accident.
    I’ve always told my three children – who in a way feel Cuban though they have no idea what their parents’ country is like – that we would visit Cuba when the U.S. Embassy in Havana was once again operational (this happened over a year ago), when my cell phone had reception there (it does now, thanks to Verizon), when we could use our credit cards there (still not the case) and I would not need a Cuban passport to return (still a long ways from happening).

    So, feeling something between fear and paranoia – an emotion difficult to explain to someone who did not grow up in Cuba at a time when all phones conversations were monitored, when your neighbor reported you to the authorities if you stepped inside a church or if you accepted a call from a family member in Miami, which would brand you a CIA agent – I got on a plane to Cuba from Miami. There, I would meet part of the group that I would share this Havana odyssey with. The flight is only 40 minutes but the process of getting there can last an entire day.

  11. NBC NEWS (Video) : Cuban Artist Jailed for Artwork Displaying Work in Miami Beach – By Amanda Plasencia
    A Cuban artist, who was recently released from a Cuban prison for his controversial artwork, is now showing his work in Miami Beach. On Thursday evening, people will begin filing in at the Market Gallery for Cuban artist El Sexto. He’s premiering “Pork,” the first exhibition of his work in the United States. Two pigs painted with the words: Fidel and Raul. This is the performance art that landed Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto, in a Cuban jail. He said he spent 10 months in jail for painting pigs with the names of Cuba’s communist leaders. He was locked up without trial in Cuba’s Valle Grande Prison. On Thursday, El Sexto hopes to do the performance that landed him behind bars.


  12. That’s what I always suspected Gabriel, that the Cuban dissidents are about something much more sinister than democracy and human rights, that what they really want is Repub-style rule.
    Politics is like walking on a narrow road. When a vehicle comes along you need to get as far as you can to one side without falling into the ditch. The present US Prez campaign is giving us all the proof we need – if we didn’t already know – that extremists shouldn’t rule. Whenever they did, that was a disaster…

  13. Change is happening in Latin America, in Argentina, Venezuela and Bolivia. It’s coming in Brazil too, but muuuch more slowly because it’s sooo big!
    In the US the Dems are doing the same Socialism and Populism that Latin america is finding out that doesn’t work, with the ACA. It’s a simple rob-the-rich-to-buy-the-votes-of-the-poor-scheme. Now the Admin has found that it’s not enough to pay the fatcat “insurers”, so now there’s another economic time bomb waiting to blow together with many others…

  14. Gabriel brought up one important point, one that is always relevant when change needs to happen anywhere: The Cubans have to do it themselves. Forget the rulers, they always try to preserve the status quo.
    Change isn’t about shouting and risking your life every day. It’s about opportunities, like the tractor from the US now available. When kids can get milk and better nutrition in general, they grow up strong and smart and able to continue the change. It’s about change from generation to generation, and will happen ever faster once it has started. The good news is that it’s already started!

  15. Obama trip to Cuba is a sell out to the Castroit tyrannical regime. A year ago Obama said that he would visit Cuba if the human rights “significantly improve”, and meetings with the dissidents were part of the agenda. The regime has not made any progress on human rights, civil liberties and access to the internet. Obama is treating the dissident in Cuba in the same way he treated the dissident in Iran, with contempt and disrespect. This rapprochement with the Castroit regime form part of his legacy, like the Iran deal, regardless of the consequences. He make enemies of our friends and tries to make friends with our enemies.

  16. Obama, Cuba, and Us

    by The Editors February 19, 2016

    President Obama has announced that he will visit Cuba next month. This is a natural follow-on from his rapprochement with the Castro regime after our midterm elections in 2014.
    In April of the next year, Obama said, “After the midterm elections, my advisers asked me, ‘Mr. President, do you have a bucket list?’ And I said, ‘Well, I have something that rhymes with “bucket list.”’” Exactly.

    An opening to the Castro dictatorship was neither urgent nor necessary nor in the American interest. Obama simply wanted to do it. It was on his list. The dictatorship had been dreaming about this kind of rapprochement for well over half a century. So had the American Left.

    Previous administrations had offered linkage: favors from Washington in exchange for liberalization in Cuba. Obama had next to no interest in linkage. He offered his favor to the Castros essentially for free.

    Since the Obama opening, the Castros have cracked down all the harder on democrats and dissidents. Since the Obama opening, they have cracked down all the harder on democrats and dissidents. Oscar Biscet, the Cuban democracy leader, said, “I feel as though I have been abandoned on the battlefield.” Berta Soler, another democracy leader — the leader of the Ladies in White — said, “The European Union, the U.S.A., Pope Francis — they have turned their backs on us.” She also said that Obama had given “a green light to the Cuban government to crush civil society.”

    It is the contention of Obama and others that U.S. policy over all these decades has not “worked.” By “worked,” they mean “toppled the regime.” Okay. But what Cuban democrats tend to say is, “At least the Americans haven’t helped the regime. That sets them apart from the Russians, the Western Europeans, the Canadians, and others. God bless them for it.”

    Many of our citizens look forward to touring in Cuba. May they have a good time, sipping their mojitos on the beach and exploring what is sometimes euphemistically called “nightlife.” But remember, tourist dollars — or euros or whatever they are — are poured right into the regime, giving the Castros the oxygen they need to keep going.

    That the Castros will direct much of that windfall to the persecution of their opponents seems to be of little concern to the administration. In recent months, David Thorne, a senior adviser to the current secretary of state, John Kerry, spoke of our new relationship with Cuba: “As in other parts of the world, we are really trying to also say, Let’s find out how we can work together and not always say that human rights are the first things that we have to fix before anything else.”

    With that in mind, a big question about the president’s upcoming trip is whether he will meet with the dictator emeritus, Fidel. Fidel Castro is a hero to leftists all over the world. A rock star. Meeting with him, for the Left, is like meeting with Elvis. Che Guevara would be possibly better, but he is no longer available.

    Arguably, Obama has an opportunity to do good in Cuba. He can insist on meeting with democrats and dissidents. He can insist on spotlighting political prisoners, if not outright visiting them. Last September, Pope Francis snubbed the democracy movement. The movement was terribly demoralized. Obama probably can’t get away with a total snub. But will he do more than the minimum? More than pay lip service?

    Between Democrats and Republicans, there are many and sharp differences, including on Communism. Consider that a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders, honeymooned in the Soviet Union. And that the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, honeymooned in Cuba.

    Among the Republican candidates for president are two Cuban Americans, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. The latter has made an interesting proposal: to rename the street in front of the Castros’ new embassy in Washington, D.C., after Oswaldo Paya — who was a Cuban democracy leader killed in 2012, almost certainly by the regime. We hope someone who can distinguish between Cuba’s oppressed and its oppressors occupies the White House next.
    Until then, there is little recourse. This is what Barack Obama does. This is who he is. In this last couple of years, he is crossing off the items on his rhymes-with-bucket list. On to Tehran.

    Noam Chomsky, the renowned scholar and MIT professor emeritus, says that the rise of Donald Trump in American politics is, in part, fueled by deeply rooted fear and hopelessness that may be caused by an alarming spike in mortality rates for a generation of poorly educated whites.

    “He’s evidently appealing to deep feelings of anger, fear, frustration, hopelessness, probably among sectors like those that are seeing an increase in mortality, something unheard of apart from war and catastrophe,” Chomsky told The Huffington Post in an interview on Thursday.

    Trump’s rise as the Republican presidential front-runner has been confounding for Americans across the political spectrum. The bombastic, billionaire demagogue has won three of the first four primary states and holds a lead in the polls, both nationwide and in upcoming primary contests. He now appears poised to take an insurmountable delegate lead over the next several weeks, based on a platform of hate and vitriol targeted at women, Latinos, Muslims and other minorities.

    A legion of less educated, working-class white men has fueled Trump’s rise. And while many say the business mogul is capitalizing on their fears about the perceived decline of white dominance in America, Chomsky says there may also be more existential forces at play.

    Life expectancy, in general, has increased steadily over time. And thanks largely to advances in health care, many people around the world live longer lives. There are exceptions, of course — during war or natural catastrophes, for example. But what’s happening now in America, he says, is “quite different.”

    Despite vast wealth and modern medicine, the U.S. has lower average life expectancy than many other nations. And while the average has been increasing recently, the gains are not evenly spread out. Wealthier Americans are living longer lives, while the poor are living shorter ones.

    Poorly educated, middle-aged American white males are particularly affected, multiple recent studies suggest. While Americans from other age, racial and ethnic groups are living longer lives than ever before, this particularly segment of the population is dying faster.

    A Nobel Memorial Prize-winning study on the issue found that the rising death rate for this group is not due to the ailments that commonly kill so many Americans, like diabetes and heart disease, but rather by an epidemic of suicides, liver disease caused by alcohol abuse, and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids.

    “No war, no catastrophe,” Chomsky says, has caused the spiking mortality rate for this population. “Just the impact of policies over a generation that have left them, it seems, angry, without hope, frustrated, causing self-destructive behavior.”

    That could well explain Trump’s appeal, he speculated.

    In an interview with Alternet this week, Chomsky compared the poverty that many Americans now face with the conditions an older generation confronted during the Great Depression.

    “It’s interesting to compare the situation in the ‘30s, which I’m old enough to remember,” he said. “Objectively, poverty and suffering were far greater. But even among poor working people and the unemployed, there was a sense of hope that is lacking now.”

    Chomsky attributes some of that Depression-era hope to the growth of an aggressive labor movement and the existence of political organizations outside of the mainstream.

    Today, however, he says the mood is quite different for Americans who are deeply affected by poverty.

    “[They] are sinking into hopelessness, despair and anger — not directed so much against the institutions that are the agents of the dissolution of their lives and world, but against those who are even more harshly victimized,” he said. “Signs are familiar, and here it does evoke some memories of the rise of European fascism.”

    Editor’s Note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

  18. Well…I see our Right Wing friend Humberto is in full form…he even sounds like Donald Trump :) :)….he condemns President Obama for doing the will of the American People which is better relations with Cuba. He criticizes Socialism by tell us what a dissatisfied tourist who should never leave the United States, a Rich country, criticizes because he does not understand. In other words is the same thing as a blogger in the United States going to Cuba and criticizing Cuba because there was no Starbuck or McDonald’s for her to buy her food. But, that is Humberto’s way. Cuba continues its natural evolutionary process of its Society and Humberto still is fighting the Cold War. He ignores that the Communist government of China has stir the Chinese economy successful growth for more than 25 years while our own “best hope for Humanity” Free Market Right Wing control society experienced 50 years of declining standard of living. But, he still insist that Cuba should embrace an unsustainable economic system with intervention from a foreign power instead of Cuba staying sovereign and independent as it is today and letting the Cuban People IN CUBA determine their own destiny.

  19. Yoani,

    Very moving piece you wrote. I can relate to it very well. I know of two publicly traded companies in the United States that between them employ close to 200,000 Americans. Both companies pay their “blue collar” workers the minimum wage in the United States (between 7.75 to a little over 10.00 depending on what part of the country they are operating). The calculated living wage in the United States is over $23.00/hour. These are the American workers that live along side and experiencing similar hardships as the discarded 17/20% of Americans in our Capitalistic society. These are the Americans that seeing a doctor is something you do when the pain is so great that you can’t go to work. Buying a pair of glasses is something you only do when you can’t see anymore. A visit to the dentist you only use for extractions because crowns and false teeth is out of your income range. These are the American citizens that even though they live in one of the most affluent societies in the World, most of what the society creates is out of reach to about 90 Million Americans. It was a surreal experience for me to engage in conversation with these Americans. One group I spoke to, told me that they can’t afford to go on vacation. They don’t remember when was the last time that they took a vacation from work. They needed to save their vacation money to pay for the two weeks shutdown during the Christmas Holiday. The company required them to wear uniforms, yet they had no winter coats issued even though the weather conditions in Chicago during the winter averages between 17 degrees F. and 24 degrees. At least one employee was sick with pneumonia and he was taking care of his pneumonia with home made remedies. I thought I was watching a Hollywood movie from the 1930’s Great Depression. But, after pinching myself I realized that this was the 21st. Century and this was the United States today.

    MIAMI HERALD: Is Obama listening to Cuban Americans who don’t agree? – BY JOE CARDONA — Is there increased support for engagement among Cuban Americans? Unquestionably, there is. However, what is deliberately missed by the administration’s paid supporters is all the hues of gray in this debate. What is rarely, if ever, assessed is how many Cuban Americans (like myself) think that the embargo is a farce and always has been and yet we are deeply disappointed and concerned about the way the administration has carried out its new approach towards Cuba.

    In my studies of American history, rarely have I seen such one-sided negotiations between two countries. As far as the objective eye can see, the score stands at Cuba’s totalitarian, criminal regime 100, and the United States — the self-proclaimed beacon for human rights and democracy around the globe — a big zero.

    President Obama has had every opportunity to illustrate to the world that the United States is ready, willing and able to normalize relations with Cuba if and when the Cuban regime decides it is going to soften, if not eliminate, its Draconian treatment of its citizens.

    Read more here:


    THE GLOBE AND MAIL: Why is Obama visiting Cuba? – by KONRAD YAKABUSKI

    Mr. Obama seeks to make his opening toward Cuba “irreversible” for a future president and prepare for a post-Castro Cuba. But it would be naive to believe the 84-year-old Raul, who plans to quit the presidency in 2018, has not planned for his succession. Many Cuban experts believe he has chosen 55-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, a Communist hardliner and first vice-president of the Cuban Council of State, to succeed him as president. But the real post-Raul power may lie with his son and/or son-in-law; both are top military officials who run some of Cuba’s biggest businesses

    Only two months ago, U.S. President Barack Obama laid out the conditions under which he would visit Cuba before he leaves office. “If, in fact, I with confidence can say that we’re seeing some progress in the liberty and expression and possibilities of ordinary Cubans, I’d love to use a visit as a way of highlighting that progress,” he said on the first anniversary of his historic announcement of the renewal of U.S. diplomatic relations with the Communist holdout.

    The world has become accustomed to Mr. Obama’s foreign policy flip-flops (see his “red line” in Syria) and desire to do away with the image of the United States as a meddling and moralizing superpower. But even critics of the five-decade U.S. policy of isolating the Castro regime were taken aback by news that Mr. Obama will next month become the first sitting president to visit to Cuba in 88 years.

    In no material sense has Cuban President Raul Castro, who took over from his ailing brother Fidel in 2006, expanded the freedoms of ordinary citizens. Recent baby steps toward economic reform fit a pattern that seasoned Cuba watchers recognize all too well. The Castros are experts in diffusing the frustrations of average Cubans with their stultified economic conditions by offering up mini-reforms that, once the dust settles, never amount to much for average folk. Low expectations are now so integral to the Cuban condition that mere crumbs are welcomed.

    There has been even less progress on human rights. Arbitrary arrests and detentions climbed steadily throughout 2015 and hit 1,474 people in January, according to the Cuban Observatory on Human Rights. Political repression has not eased. “The figures reflect only certain repressive actions, and therefore do not express all the violations of various human rights that occur in Cuba,” the Madrid-based organization noted. “But they serve to demonstrate the lack of political will to change on the part of the Cuban government, which remains stuck in intolerance and immobility.”


  22. Shouting at the Castristas about human rights only makes it worse. Improving economic conditions, as you point out Gabriel, is the back door way in to improving everything else!

  23. I am sadened by the state of affairs of political oposition in Cuba. I really would like to see that improve. But only the Cubans in Cuba can bring about this change. Neither the President, nor the US Military nor the CIA can bringsubstative political change in Cuba. The president has publicly expressed disatisfaction with the state of political opposition. But ultimately political change in Cuba can only be brough by the Cubans in Cuba. I unfortunately I am not hopeful that political change will occur in the near future. If the economic changes take root, and we should all work for this to happen, this will bring about social change. Only then can substantive political change take place.


    THE GUARDIAN UK : Cuba gives several dissidents one-time permission to travel abroad
    Country grants permits for seven imprisoned during Black Spring crackdown ahead of Barack Obama’s visit but one member says ‘It’s totally arbitrary’

    The Cuban government has loosened travel restrictions on some of the island’s best-known dissidents, granting them one-time permission to travel abroad ahead of Barack Obama’s trip to the island, according to activists.

    Obama has said his 21-22 March trip to Havana is designed to push the Cuban government to improve conditions for its people. Critics say Obama is rewarding the Cuban government despite its refusal to give citizens the ability to freely vote for their leaders and exercise their rights to free speech and assembly.

    Members of a group of 11 dissidents imprisoned during the 2003 crackdown known as the Black Spring said Wednesday that officials have told seven of them that they will be free to travel one time as a reward for good behavior. Four, more politically active members of the group remain unable to travel, the dissidents said.

    Activist Marta Beatriz Roque said that she and six other former prisoners were contacted by Cuban immigration officials on Sunday and told to report to state offices the following day. There, they were told that they would be able to travel overseas once and return to Cuba.

    She said she intended to travel to the United States to see family as soon as she was able. She credited the Cuban government decision to Obama’s upcoming trip but criticized the one-off nature of the permits and the fact that four of the more active former Black Spring prisoners remained under travel bans.

    “It’s a concession for Obama’s visit,” she said. “But I also think that Cuba’s doing it so that some of us say: ‘OK, if I can’t travel again, I’m going to stay.’”
    Dissident Jorge Olivera, a former state television editor, said he was assessing whether he could now accept a yearlong fellowship at a US university

  25. Any communication is better than no communication. I think Obama is right in extending a hand forward and try to negotiate an improvement of relations in the hope that, sometime in the future we could say that they are diplomatic. Some of the violation of Human rightrs in Cuba are a result of the Cuban government paranoia about foreign intervention in their internal affairs. Unfortunately their fears are not unfounded. The US Govt. has intervene many, many times in Cuba in ways which in the past have been nefarious. Yes I agree that the Cuban society could improve in the direction of beeing a more civil society. It is currently changing into a more open economy, and economic changes will bring social changes We should be patient and continue to work for positive improvement. The old policy of no-communication, which has been in place for the last 60 years, have proved fruitless. It is time we try something else.


    THE BOSTON GLOBE: Human rights are on the ropes in Cuba, but Obama is eager to visit – by JEFF JACOBY

    President Obama makes no secret of his eagerness to visit Cuba, but as recently as December he insisted that there would be no such trip until human rights and civil liberties on the island had improved.

    “What I’ve said to the Cuban government is, if . . . we’re seeing some progress in the liberty and freedom and possibilities of ordinary Cubans, I’d love to use a visit as a way of highlighting that progress,” Obama told Yahoo! News. “If we’re going backwards, then there’s not much reason for me to be there.”
    So far, Obama’s “engagement” with the Castros hasn’t opened even a crack in their Stalinist system. It is folly to imagine that his trip next month will do anything to expand freedom or justice for Cuba’s beleaguered people. But, oh, what a boon it will be for their brutal rulers: the ultimate stamp of approval for the only totalitarian regime in the Americas.


  27. Any communication is better than no communication. I think the president and the Pope are doing it right. I am confident that their efforts will produce results in the long run.

    The media build-up to President Obama’s March 21 visit to Cuba is well along pumping “historic” significance into the trip. That’s what happened last year when Pope Francis visited Cuba, with “history” served by publicizing photographs of the pontiff with Fidel and Raul Castro. The real story in Cuba, though, is always out of sight, in the cells of its many political prisoners. Human-rights groups recently have noted something odd about Mr. Obama’s historic normalization of relations with Cuba in late 2014. Since then the number of individuals jailed arbitrarily has gone up. This past January, according to the Madrid-based Cuban Observatory on Human Rights, some 1,474 individuals were jailed at the regime’s whim, more than 500 of them women.

    On Monday Cuba’s interior ministry told eight paroled political prisoners that they were being given permission to make a “one-time” trip abroad. Unlike Americans hopping on planes to discover Cuba, the average Cuban can’t leave the island without permission.

    Marta Beatriz Roque, the one woman in the group, said “My perception is that they want us to stay [outside of Cuba], but I’ve been going along like this for 25 years and I’m not going to throw in the towel for a trip.”


  29. PHOTOS: Yoani Sanchez at Instituto Cervantes

    Centro Cultural Cubano de Nueva York
    Monday, February 22, 2016 @ 7 pm
    A conversation with distinguished Cuban journalist Yoani Sánchez, founder of the
    independent digital journal 14ymedio,
    and one of the most followed bloggers
    worldwide through Generación Y
    (translated into more than 17 languages and reaching over 14 million people), where she continues to express her views on the problems faced by Cuban society under the present regime. Generation Y was chosen by CNN as one of the “20 Best Blogs in the World.” She is also a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and El País, among other news outlets. Ms. Sánchez has been named one of the world’s “100 Most Influential People” by Time Magazine, and one of the “10 Most Influential Latin American Intellectuals” by Foreign Policy Magazine. In 2008, she received Spain’s Ortega y Gasset Prize for Journalism and Germany’s Deutsche Welle Award for Online Activism. The following year she was granted the prestigious Maria Moors Cabot Prize from Columbia University’s School of Journalism. In March 2013, during her first visit to New York City, the Cuban Cultural Center of New York honored her with a special plaque, in recognition of her exceptional contribution to the struggle for human rights in Cuba and, most especially,
    to freedom of expression on the Island.

    On this occasion, Ms. Sánchez will assess how her efforts, and those of others, have contributed to the construction of an emergent civil society in Cuba, and give first-hand testimony on the effects the recent U.S.-Cuba rapprochement has had on the lives of everyday citizens there.
    The chat will be moderated by veteran journalist and TV anchor Antonio Mora.

    The interview will be held in Spanish, with simultaneous English translation via earphones.

    211 E 49th St, NYC



    FUSION NEWS: Cuba libre? – by Jorge Ramos

    Pope Francis and President Obama are the best friends that Cuba could hope for. Both leaders have resolved to ally with the Castro regime, despite its decades long record of repression, censorship and human rights violations. The mystery is why. Obama’s visit to Cuba next month could be his very own “Nixon moment.” In 1972, President Richard M. Nixon, with the crucial assistance of Henry Kissinger, embarked on his historic visit to China, which resulted in opening up the secretive Asian giant to the rest of the world. But just as Nixon’s trip didn’t transform China into a democracy, Obama’s visit to Cuba won’t bring about multiparty elections, the release of political prisoners, or more press freedoms. But it could mark the beginning of a long-term strategy that goes far beyond the reopening of American embassies.

    Obama is taking a lot of criticism for his Cuba strategy. Years from now, though, I hope I can interview Obama and have him admit that his goal all along in normalizing relations was to help bring real democracy to Cuba. Sooner rather than later, perhaps, the people of Cuba will force the Castro regime to face justice. Perhaps Cuba’s aging leaders will answer for their crimes before they’re gone. It’s a shame to see a dictator die in a comfortable bed rather than in a prison cell—as was the case with Chile’s Augusto Pinochet and Francisco Franco of Spain. We’ll have to wait and see.

    Pope Francis’ overtures to the Castro regime have likewise disappointed people who yearn for change in Cuba. In his tenure as pontiff, Francis has visited the island twice, both times greeting the brothers Castro as legitimate rulers and ignoring their despotic past. As I mentioned last week, it was especially galling to watch the arrest of a Cuban activist who tried to speak to Francis as the pope visited Cuba in September. As plainclothes security agents pushed the young man to the ground and dragged him away, Francis said nothing.

    While he was in Cuba, the pope also failed to meet with prominent dissident groups such as the Ladies in White. Nor did he speak with independent journalists like the popular blogger Yoani Sanchez. Rather than interact with those who dare raise their voices against oppression, Francis seemingly prefers to remain silent.

    FORTUNE MAGAZINE: These 10 Photos Will Make You Rethink Your Trip to Cuba – by Wally Nowinski
    The food is bad, but the plumbing is worse – Labor is free and capital is dear – Eighty percent of Cuba’s workforce is employed directly by the state. For them, the official wage is 500 Cuban pesos per month — or about $20. Professionals in sectors facing an acute labor shortage make a bit more: doctors earn three times the standard wage. But however you slice it, the average salary is extremely low relative other countries in the hemisphere. Sure, there’s a big safety net: the government provides free housing, healthcare, and education. The ration book provides for about 15 days of food per month, as well as staples like soap and cooking oil. (beyond that, food is subsidized.) So we’re not exactly talking about World Bank $1.25 a day levels of poverty, but buying power in the country is limited. And to make matters worse, anything that can’t be produced on the island needs to be imported, often via the black market thanks to the embargo, leading to higher than average prices for clothes, electronics, building materials, and the vast majority of consumer goods. Internet access is $2 per hour, texts 5 cents per message.

    The high cost of goods and low cost of work lead to labor practices that would seem insane anywhere else. Jobs like plowing fields and weaving textiles that have been mechanized for decades in the rest of the world are done by hand in Cuba — sometimes by people with college degrees. Productivity is handicapped because employers (read: the state) are also short on cash. Cuba imports all its energy and most of its food, leaving very little to put towards machines that might improve efficiency. Cuba’s “modern” infrastructure and equipment dates from the end of the Soviet Era, and much of it from before the revolution (see: classic cars).

    The result is a country where a full-time employee might cost $100 a month in the embryonic private sector, but a five-year old Kia runs $100,000.

  32. ***
    HI GIR–I think that Yoani is referring to the red neckerchief that is part of all Cuban schoolkids uniforms. Possibly also for the communist training Young Pioneer group they are forced to join.
    HOLA GIR–Creo que Yoani es refieriendo a los bandanas rojas que son parte de los uniformes de todos los estudiantes Cubanos. Es posible el mismo por grupos de Los Pioneros jovenes que tienen que unirses.
    John Bibb

  33. It may seem that oppresed and poor people care more about their material well being than their “rights”. The good news that change is happening in Latin America. Electing Prez Macri in Argentina was a huge and real change, a complete departure from disastrous peronismo/kirchnerismo. In Venezuela there is a new National Assembly, and the days of the Chavismo crime gang “govt” are numbered.
    Today the news is in, that Prez Evo Morales of Bolivia won’t get a 4th term. The US and Prez BO are sooo far behind the curve cozying up to Cuba. Latin America is rejecting populism, but the Dems are hoping to rule the US forever with the ACA vote-buying project…

  34. Great article Yoani! I have learned a lot about resilience from my Cuban brothers and sisters who are exiled in the U.S.

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