Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rapid Roundup: The revolution will not be "tuiteada," Cuban masculinities, Correa under attack, and official ICT #s for Cuba

Lots going on around the web and around the world today:

Even though I get the New Yorker magazine delivered directly to my apartment here in New York, as usual Penultimos Dias scooped us all on this very timely article, "Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted," by perhaps the leading essayist writing today in the English language, yes - I mean Malcolm Gladwell.  Ernesto Hernandez Busto has the article up on his blog already translated into Spanish  (Traducción: Juan Carlos Castillón).  He also has a link to a critique of Gladwell's article already up at the Economist.  And go here for the transcript of a Q&A with Gladwell about the article that took place - how else - via the Internet.

The last time I was in Cuba I gave Yoani a Spanish language copy of Gladwell's The Tipping Point (El punto clave) - because I thought (or perhaps hoped) that blogging was "tipping" there.  Gladwell's new article is a sharp and sobering reminder that social networks and social media do not (alone) social change make.

There's a new blog on the block (or at least on my block).  A few years ago my good friend in Havana, Julio Cesar Gonzalez Pages, helped to found the Red iberoamericana de masculinidades (Ibero-American Masculinities Network).

The network is doing some really cutting edge stuff with gender roles, machismo, feminism, etc. in Cuba and elsewhere in Latin America.  Here are their two blogs (Cuba and Latin America) for you to take a look.  Julio has written a number of books including, "Por andar vestida de hombre," a history of the life of Enriqueta Favez, the first Cuban woman to practice medicine back in the 19th century.  However, she had to cross-dress as a man most of her life in order to do it!  (Cuban journalist Dalia Acosta has a review/interview with Julio at Havana Times in English here). 

As if that kind of historical sociology weren't enough, Julio is also a true organic intellectual who teaches courses against gender violence to men in Cuban prisons.

Breaking news: Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, has been cornered in a hospital and attacked violently by a group of renegade police after attempting to push through a set of economic reforms.  The government seems to have even issued a call to the population to descend upon the hospital en masse to free the president.  See the coverage at CNN and the NYT.

Finally, yesterday Cuba released a detailed report on citizen use of and access to the Internet.  You can also go here to view a previous report from this summer.  Marc Frank's story on the report is here at Reuters and Will Weissert's story is here.  (H/T: Penultimos Dias for the Reuter's story.) 

Ernesto indicates that the report reveals that just 2.9% of the Cuban population connected to the Internet over the past 12 months and that only 5.8% of Cuba's 11 millon inhabitants used e-mail during 2009.  He also says that the government's own survey inadvertantly reveals the funny math behind connectivity stats usually reported for Cuba.  In 2009, for example, 1.6 millon Cubans are reported to have had access to the Internet - that is 14.2% of the population.  However, this statistic combines Internet users (www) together with national Intranet users (.cu), as if they were one and the same.

Melba Ruffo reads Yoani Sanchez message at Internet For Peace event in N...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Yoani sounds off with skepticism

The newest post up at Generation Y, Chaplinesque, contains Yoani Sanchez's deeply skeptical reaction to last Friday's Granma article detailing forthcoming regulations on self-employment.

El Yuma is working hard for you and reading all he can about the new regs and the various reactions and interpretations to this new experiment with self-employment. Later this week I will post my own take on all these reactions and give you links to them so you can read them for yourself.

For now, let's just say that there is a wide spectrum of reactions, ranging from:

Naive: Hooray, here comes capitalism!  Let's hope it's not too late.

to Hopeful: This looks good, I hope they follow through...

to Doubtful: They keep talking only about order, control, and taxes, not real promotion - don't hold your breath.

to Skeptical: I've seen this movie before back in the 1990s and it doesn't end well.

to Cynical: They just wanted to get rid of half-a-million workers. This is just neo-liberalism under the guise of a "new kind" of socialism. Nothing will change in Cuba until the Castro brothers are dead and gone.

I, myself, am hovering somewhere between hopeful and doubtful.  Like a good academic, I want data and am withholding judgement until I see how this plays out en la practica.  But remember for some people who've been burned before by Big Brother (or the "Big Brothers"), what may sound to you and me like cynicism is for them simple reality.

Order at the Foot of the Highway - Granma

The most recent article on the expansion of self-employment in Cuba, "Orden al pie de la carretera," from Granma on Monday, September 27 (my new favorite morning read) leaves me with decidedly mixed feelings.

On the one hand, the article seems to channel the voice of Fidel, always emphasizing the need to impose a strict "order" and "control" as the new self-employed sector begins to expand.  The article also engages in the old tactic of singling out evil "intermediaries" who were supposedly making it rich without doing much work.  Finally, it emphasizes that these new self-employed workers must "pagar lo que deben," or pay what they owe in taxes.

There's even a new dress code being imposed - reminding me of my good-ole-days as a Catholic school student - along with the exhortation for growers/sellers to act orderly and keep their kiosks clean.  You've heard, "you kids get off my lawn."  Well this is the Cuban version: "Hey, you kids go clean your room!"

(Photo credit: Jose Antonio Torres for Granma)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Goldberg @ Goldblog: America's Absurd and Self-Defeating Cuba Policy

What with all the goings on in Cuba these days following Fidel's slip of the tongue, El Yuma neglected to draw your attention to the following provocative and quite perceptive blog post by Jeffrey Goldberg at his blog "Goldblog."

Also check out the developing polemic over his interview with El Jefe between him and the ever fulminating Mary Anastasia O'Grady at the Wall Street Journal.

I also had the pleasure of being present tonight at the 92Y where Goldberg was a discussant on a panel entitled, "America & Israel: The Idea of Divine Election."

The panel featured Alana Newhouse and Jeffrey Goldberg as co-moderators with authors Todd Gitlin and Liel Liebovitz who were presenting their new book, "The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election."

Essentially the panel attempted to resolve the question: The Chosen People - Privilege or Burden?

Thinking of his loyal readers, El Yuma even managed to snap a photo of Goldberg and ask him what he really thought of Fidel's answer to his question about the exportability of the Cuban model: "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."

Goldberg said that despite Fidel's backtracking later all we need to know about his answer came four days later when Granma announced the layoffs of half-a-million workers.  "He was simply saying how things really are in Cuba," Goldberg said. "Their economy is in shambles."  Go here for more from Goldberg on this.

America's Absurd and Self-Defeating Cuba Policy
By Jeffrey Goldberg

Criticism of my series (ongoing) of interviews with Fidel Castro has been diverse and enthusiastic. Much of it has come from Cuban-Americans who dislike Castro with a ferocity I haven't seen since the days when I covered the Middle East (which, if memory serves, was three weeks ago).

There are three main criticisms. The first is that I have too benign a view of Fidel Castro. The evidence for this includes the fact that I accompanied him to the Havana Aquarium and portrayed him as an old man who likes dolphins. The second criticism is that I have failed to take adequate note of Fidel's lousy human rights record. The third, related critique, is that I too easily bought the left-wing argument that the American embargo of Cuba, and the travel ban imposed by America to keep its citizens from visiting Cuba, are hypocritical and self-defeating.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Levantar Cabeza - From the Vault - By Dagoberto Valdés

The pull quote:

"The greatest and worst blockade is that which has been implanted on the creativity, the self-management, and the independent labor of Cubans."

El mayor y peor bloqueo es aquel que se ha implantado sobre la creatividad, la gestión propia y el trabajo independiente de los cubanos.”

- Dagoberto Valdés, Vitral, January 19, 2004

* * *

A Number of years ago I came across this extraordinary essay by the former editor-in-chief of Vitral Magazine, Dagoberto Valdés. While Valdés can now be found at the new publication Convivencia (and at its blog Intramuros), his wise and deeply humane words from 2004 are especially pertinent NOW, as the Cuban government declares its new policy of not just tolerating self-employment, but promoting it.

Let's hope that Raul's advisors consider the arguments in this document as they consider the details of he new self-employment regulations to be announced in October.

It's perhaps the most powerful and succinct argument in favor of self-employment and a private enterprise sector that I encountered during all the research related to my thesis.


Por Dagoberto Valdés Hernández, Revista Vitral - Pinar del Río

Enero 19, 2004

Casi todos los días, mientras espero la carreta para ir a las yaguas, me encuentro con un amigo, antiguo maestro, que siempre anda apurado en su bicicleta.

Siempre le pregunto: ¿cómo va la cosa? Y siempre me contesta igual: ¡Ahí, tratando de levantar cabeza!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mucho mas que una "alternativa" - Granma details new Self-Employment regulations

Today's Granma has a long and detailed article about the "new rules" that will regulate Self-Employment in Cuba, entitled, "Much more than an alternative." The article includes a list of the 178 legal occupations, 83 of which will be permitted to hire labor. (Thanx to my friend Carlos Alzugaray for alerting me to the article.)

It's easily the most the national daily newspaper has ever said about self-employment. And while there is still an underlying attitude of control, the article includes some breathtaking passages of economic pragmatism and autocritica (self-criticism) that I, for one, never thought I'd read in this "Organo Oficial del Comite Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba."

Given that my own dissertation on the struggles of the self-employed workers was entitled "Condemned to Informality," I felt a special surge of vindication when I read the following words:
"The aim is to distance ourselves from those policies that condemned self-employment to near extinction and stigmatized those who decided to joint its ranks legally in the decade of the 90s."
I guess I can safely say that Granma and I now finally agree on at least one thing! (Perhaps I should sue for plagarism or at least demand a footnote!)

What follows is my own quick description and assessment of today's announcement.  You can also go to The Cuban Triangle for Phil Peter's adept analysis of the article.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Persepolis goes to Cuba, or "My Revolution" comes to Brooklyn

The Making of the Graphic Novel & Related Drawings by
Inverna Lockpez & Dean Haspiel
October 2 - December 12
Mariella Bisson, Curator
Artists’ Talk with Moderator Calvin Reid Saturday, October 2nd, 4pm
Reception: Saturday, October 2nd, 5 - 7pm
Open free to the public: Thursday - Sunday, 12 - 5pm



353 Van Brunt Street, (RED HOOK) Brooklyn, New York 11231
Telephone: 718.875.2098 / 
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC : Thursday - Sunday, 12 - 5pm

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

¡Ñooo! ¡Que Barato!

Near Cuba, Wary Kin Wait for Proof of a New Path

Serafin Blanco is the owner of Ñooo! ¡Que Barato!, a huge discount store in
Hialeah, Fla., where recent arrivals stock up on $1.99 flip-flops and other
items for relatives to resell in Cuba.
Photo: Oscar Hidalgo for The New York Times


Here's a great article by Damien Cave in Today's Times.  It gives a good idea of the mix of hope and cynicism with which Cubans in Havana and Miami are reacting to the news of an expansion in private enterprise.  It also raises the issue of the participation of Cuban exiles in this whole process as potential investors.

Below I have selected some key passages from the article - which I think raises many key questions:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Yoani and Mobile Technology: Obama, Tear Down This Wall!

From Yoani's cell phone to your computer screen via today's Miami Herald.

New weapon against regime: Immediacy

My favorite pull quote:

"[T]his explosion in cellphone use is not matched by a corresponding development in ETECSA's infrastructure. The number of clients grows, but the number of antennas and the satellite capacity does not keep up. Thus, we get frequent messages telling us 'there is congestion on the lines,' and on holidays it becomes impossible to send or receive messages. Trapped between excessive costs and poor services, users cannot choose to switch to a more efficient company, because the state monopoly does not allow other companies to compete."

"Thus, the request to President Obama from the firms Nokia, AT&T and Verizon, asking for an easing of the embargo and trade with Cuba, is a ray of hope for us."

"If we have managed to do so much with so little, what will happen when having a cellphone, sending a text, connecting to the Internet, all become as easy as talking, walking, shouting a slogan?"

NPR Goes down on the farm in Cuba

Reform On The Range: Cubans Heed The Call To Farm

September 21, 2010
Cuba has miles and miles of fertile, lush countryside where nothing is growing or grazing. After five decades of state-controlled agriculture, the country struggles to feed itself, forcing the government to import some 70 percent of the island's food.
Cuban President Raul Castro wants to change that and is asking enterprising Cubans to go back to the land.
Aniley Pena was watching TV two years ago when she heard the offer. The government was giving out free 10-year leases on state-owned land to anyone willing to take a crack at farming.
Today, she has 12 acres on the outskirts of Bejucal, a small town 20 miles south of Havana.
Pena is 38, rugged enough to trudge around in rubber boots, but not too earthy to wear mascara in the fields. She shields herself from the withering sun with a parasol and a Nike cap, supervising a team of men as they mix organic fertilizer into beds of radishes, carrots, scallions and spinach.
Cuban farmer Lorenzo Ramos
Nick Miroff for NPR
Cuban farmer Lorenzo Ramos stands next to a sign that reads "Save Mother Earth." He hopes to open a market stand at the site, to sell his fruit directly to customers. He received a five-acre plot through a government plan to help the island grow more of its own food.

Pena's tractor is a little red Ford from the Truman era she inherited from her late grandfather. She has called her farm "Las Estrellas" — The Stars. Stars are bright, and they bring clarity, she said, which is what this new vocation has given her.
"Being out here relaxes me," Pena says. "Plus I know I'm doing something good for society, and also for myself."
Independence, Sense Of Security
Pena is the new face of Cuban socialism, a private entrepreneur with a sense of social responsibility. She was trained as a veterinarian, but like many in Cuba who aren't inspired by $20-a-month government salaries, she dropped out of the workforce.
Now, she's working seven days a week and studying pest control methods at night. As part of her deal with the government, she will give one-third of her produce to the state and sell the rest for a profit.
"Having this land, you realize how productive it can be," Pena says. "When you're growing your own food, you have independence, and that gives you a sense of security."
The Castro government has approved more than 100,000 applications for state land, but so far that hasn't led to an increase in food production.
As usual, bureaucratic absurdities are to blame. Farmers can't buy tractors or trucks without government permission. Irrigation equipment and tools have to be assigned by the state.
Police checkpoints surround Havana to make sure no one is illegally sneaking produce into the city for sale on the black market.
The government's new solution is fruit and vegetable stands where farmers can sell directly to customers. They are popping up all over the island, as some Cubans are even getting back land that belonged to their families before it was nationalized in the early 1960s.
Oscar Espinosa Chepe is a dissident economist in Havana.
"The reforms are a step forward, but they're not going to fix the problem," he says. "Cuba needs more radical changes, but the government is too scared to give up control."
Feed Mother Cuba, Save Mother Earth
There's an old joke in Cuba that if education, health care and athletics are the Cuban revolution's greatest achievements, then its three biggest failings are breakfast, lunch and dinner. Government supermarkets — where many Cubans can't even afford to shop — stock imported mango juice from Mexico, chicken from Brazil and butter from Denmark. All could be easily produced locally.
Lorenzo Ramos is another farmer taking advantage of the government deal. On a recent day, he is making fertilizer from decomposing sugar cane stalks.
His five-acre plot was choked with garbage and thorny weeds when he got it a year ago. But with his machete and his rusting Soviet tractor, he and his wife have turned a wasteland into a tidy orchard of fruit tree saplings.
Some fruit varieties have grown so scarce in Cuba that Raul Castro complained about their disappearance in a speech last year.
Ramos has responded by planting rows of mangos, guavas, peaches, lemons and prized delicacies like the guanabana, or custard apple.
"Having a farm means coping with everything — ants, thunderstorms, scratches, hurricanes, waking up at dawn," Ramos says. "It's sacrifice and hard work, but somebody has to do it. We can't all be intellectuals, because then there'd be nothing to eat."
Ramos has put up a sign along the highway next to his farm, inspired by something Bolivian President Evo Morales said on TV. "Save Mother Earth," the sign reads, and Ramos is hoping to put his fruit stand right next to it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Out of the Underground or Condemned to Informality? More on Self-Employment in Cuba

Ever since Granma printed this proclamation from the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba last Monday, the blogosphere has lit up with 1,001 debates, polemics, and interpretations of exactly what laying off 500,000+ state workers will mean, and how and whether Cuba's miniscule and long-struggling private sector (self-emploment, etc.) will be able, encouraged, and/or allowed to expand and absorb these workers.

For some of the more noteworthy reactions and analyses go to Cuba Encuentro.  There you can read an excellent opinion essay by Haroldo Dilla among many others posted there.  Diario de Cuba and Penultimos Dias also have great coverage.  As does The Cuban Triangle: hereherehere, and here.

Readers can also check out these stories in the U.S. media: The New York TimesCuba’s Public-Sector Layoffs Signal Major Shift; The Christian Science MonitorCuba move to cut 500,000 government jobs is biggest change in decades; and The Miami HeraldCuba's economic overhaul would require new approach, experts say

Editorials reacting to the announcement have also run in The Wall Street Journal, The Miami Herald, and The Washington Post.

El Yuma even made his debut in the NYT on Sunday in the Marc Lacey article, Cuba Resets the Revolution.

As the week wore on, two instructive documents began to circulate through cyberspace that give us a preliminary idea about what to expect.  Many thanx to Penultimos Dias for posting/reposting them.

First there was the Power Point presentation, "Proceso de reduccion de plantillas" (AP summary, also see here).

Then came the 6-page policy document, "Informacion sobre el reordenamiento de la fuerza de trabajo" (see here for an initial analysis).

Observers, analysts, and critics seem to be somewhat split over what this all means.  There are those who expect these developments to be a major boon to the Cuban economy and to lead Cuban workers "Out of the Underground."  Phil Peters is cautiously optimistic about the changes and has posted many analyses on his blog describing developments in this area.  See here, here, here, and here.

Then, there are others who are convinced based on past experience that until the Cuban regime changes (or at least until it accepts or enacts a systemic change in its economic model) that the recent announcement is more about ridding the state of its so-called "plantillas infladas" (inflated payrolls) than about expanding economic opportunity for the private sector.

One frustrated Cuban friend of mine referred to the announcement as a cynical and paternalistic move using the memorable phrase:

"De pleno empleo a auto empleo"
(From full employment to self-employment)

This same friend was also highly insulted at the insinuation of the Cuban government that it had been but no longer can afford to "maintain" the Cuban people.  Her sharp reply to this was:
En efecto el Estado está diciendo a los cubanos residentes que no puede seguir manteniéndolos. Pero este mensaje es ofensivo hacia los cubanos residentes y en mi opinión eso no puede obviarse.
Este discurso del Estado cubano, que no es nada nuevo, es una falta de respeto y un insulto a la inteligencia. A este discurso yo interpongo: 
¿Quién ha estado manteniendo a quién? 
En términos estrictamente económicos; sin irnos a la política. Estoy hablando de precios: porque estaremos todos de acuerdo en que el trabajo, la fuerza de trabajo, tiene un precio. Y ese precio hace mucho dejó de pagarse a los cubanos residentes asalariados. 
El gobierno cubano está tratando a los cubanos residentes como si fuesen unos vagos y unos parásitos.
In summary, instead of encouraging Cuban workers to come "out of the underground," these critics expect that these recent announcements will never materialize in a real expansion of economic freedom and autonomy for the Cuban people, leaving them "Condemned to Informality."

In a later post, I will give my own analysis of the two policy documents mentioned above.  But here, I want to share a number of documents, including some of my own, that will give readers a bit of context on the state of self-employment in Cuba from 1990-2006, when Fidel (a long-declared enemy of expanding the private sector) stepped down.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Taxman Returneth

"The Tax Regime for Micro-Emterprise in Cuba," CEPAL Review 71, 2000, pp. 139-155.

An analysis of Cuba's current tax system for private enterprise and self-employment by Archibald R.M. Ritter (PDF in English and Spanish).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Saga of Self-Employment (Yoani Sanchez)

When I did my field research for the dissertation I met and interviewed scores of Cubans just like Yoani's neighbor Humberto.

Luchando, always luchando.

Let's hope that there is rapid follow through on this announcement and that this little corner of entrepreneurial spirit can flourish once again.

I also wonder if great places like La Guarida and El Huron Azul will be allowed to reopen - or perhaps it's too little, too late for them.

Readers might also want to re-read Yoani's post from the winter/spring of 2008 entitled, "The hidden energies". There she describes the "boom in creativity and ingenuity" that Cuba saw in 1994 after Self-Employment was last expanded.

Let's hope that boom returns and that the government can accept that new economic freedoms inevitably bring with them a new political autonomy.

That will be the longer term test for Raul.
Will a Half Million Laid Off Cubans Find Work in Private Enterprise?
Yoani Sanchez, September 14, 2010 - Exclusive to The Huffington Post.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Return of Self Employment in Cuba?

It is not in devising a system,
That the fearful dangers lurk;
It is not in devising a system,
But in making the system work.

For the working out of the system
Is not in the hands of the great;
But rests on the shoulders of poor little clerks
Like Mary and Jane and Kate.

— Fred Marquis, 1920 (cited in Ritter 1974: 224)
* * *
Last week Fidel told the reporter Jeffrey Goldberg that the "Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."  Then he denied that he really meant all that.  Today's announcent from Raul's Havana, the actual government that makes and implements political and economic policies, indicates that the right hand does indeed seem to know what the left hand is doing. 

Back from a month-long break from his blog, Phil Peters reminds us of why The Cuban Triangle is the go-to place for news and no-spin analysis about U.S.-Cuban relations and economic/political goings on in the island.  Phil's latest posts, Now it gets serious and Cuba's soon to expand private sector, share the big news that the Cuban government seems to have pulled the trigger on a major reduction in state sector employment with an anticipated doubling or more of the non-state, private, cooperative, and self-employed sectors.

The news as announced in Grandma is here.  MSNBC's take on it all is here in a Reuters story written by the Havana-based financial reporter Marc Frank.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

2 + 2 = 5, Fidel insists that he was not misquoted but misunderstood?

Can someone out there in cyberspace please explain to me (as if I were a little child) the logic behind Fidel's most recent statement on Friday that though he did in fact say, “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore,” when asked of the "Cuban model" should be exported, that what he REALLY meant was the the capitalist model doesn't work.

I've heard a few theories that attempt to explain his first statement - some quite plausible (see here for a few options) - but no one has yet explained to my satisfaction how saying that Cuban socialism doesn't work was meant to convey that capitalism is bankrupt.

In other words, how does 2 + 2 = 5.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Even Better - Homer habla en cubano!

Thanx to Rui over at Herejias y Caipirinhas 2.0.

This take of the "Simpsons go to Havana" episode es mas extensa y, VAYA!, en cubano!

Conference Call with Julia Sweig (Monday, September 13, 2010)

The blogosphere is crackling with 1,001 different interpretations of Fidel's famous (or perhaps infamous) words, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."

My favorite analysts, as usual, are Phil Peters (welcome back, Phil), Tracey Eaton (Tracey's got a running commentary on the whole polemica), and Ernesto Hernandez Bustos here here, and here (not to mention La Flaca herself). You can also get links to official spins on his statements at all three of these blogs, and of course at the oficialisima Cuba Debate.

My favorite discovery, besides the original Goldberg blog posts themselves (links to all three below), is this 15-second Simpsons outtake posted on Penultimos Dias (after originally appearing on the NYT Lede blog).

What follows is a media advisory from the COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS about an upcoming on-the-record conference call with Julia Sweig herself. It says that the call is open to members of the press only - but as a blogger, I hope El Yuma can listen in. If so, I will report on the call here next week.

*On-The-Record Media Conference Call*

Fidel Castro and the US-Cuba Relationship

CFR Senior Fellow Julia Sweig and The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg travelled to Cuba recently where they had lengthy meetings with Fidel Castro and discussed a number of topics, including international diplomacy, the Middle East, and Cuba's history.

In this special media conference call, Sweig will answer questions about her impressions from the meetings and their significance for Cuba and US-Cuban relations.

Date: Monday, September 13, 2010
Call Time: 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. ET
Dial-in Information:
U.S. callers: 1.800.311.9402
International callers: 1.334.323.7224
Passcode: CUBA
Speaker: Julia E. Sweig, Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies and Director for Latin America Studies, CFR

Goldberg on Part I; Part II; and Part III.

Deborah Jerome, Deputy Editor,

**RSVP Required**

--Open to members of the press only--

RSVP by 12:00 p.m., ET, Monday, September 13, 2010 RSVP to:

Press Contact:
Lucy Dunderdale

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Loose Lips Sink Ships

If I'm Raul, I'm thinking "Can't you just shut up for once Big Brother?"

Each time he has opened his big mouth over the past week (at least on domestic politics), he sounds more and more like La Flaca Yoani Sanchez.

Next he'll be shouting: "Internet para todos!" from the Plaza de la Revolucion.

Castro says Cuban model doesn't work

PAUL HAVEN, September 8, 2010

HAVANA (AP) - Fidel Castro told a visiting American journalist that Cuba's communist economic model doesn't work, a rare comment on domestic affairs from a man who has conspicuously steered clear of local issues since stepping down four years ago.

The fact that things are not working efficiently on this cash-strapped Caribbean island is hardly news. Fidel's brother Raul, the country's president, has said the same thing repeatedly. But the blunt assessment by the father of Cuba's 1959 revolution is sure to raise eyebrows.

Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, asked if Cuba's economic system was still worth exporting to other countries, and Castro replied: "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore" Goldberg wrote Wednesday in a post on his Atlantic blog.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Read Books, Don't Burn Them

El Yuma just received the following brief e-mail from one of his closest friends, a career Marine, who recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. I also have one of my best and brightest former students currently serving in Afghanistan as a Army reservist. This is the third time he has interrupted his studies to serve in the Middle East.

While I can think of a lot of other good reasons not to burn the Koran, my old friend's point is well made.

I just have a pair of questions - Do you think this guy actually read the Qur'an first before deciding to burn it? And does he know that Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Mary, and Jesus are all celebrated as messengers of God in Islam's holy book.

Bill wrote:

"On Sept. 11, 2010, the Dove World Outreach Center, a church in Florida, plans to burn Korans. This will result in dead Americans in Afghanistan, maybe elsewhere as well.

I ask that we each offer a prayer to change the mind/heart of the pastor in Florida, Terry Jones. America does not need this. Our soldiers and Marines over there do not need this."

See here, here, and here for two related NYT articles.

Video here.

La Paja Recold Prodution - Empresa de Grabaciones y Exposiciones No Gubermentales

Looks like Gorki (back from his trip abroad) and his Gang are at it again.

The members of Porno Para Ricardo have just put the finishing touches on their new recording studio.  Now let's hope they can't be accused of "escandalo publico" when they practice.

Talk about PUNK! Go here for the original at El Auditorio Imbecil, Ciro Diaz's blog.

Thanx to Penultimos Dias for the heads up.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Without Hatred

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo interviews Yoani Sanchez in Diario de Cuba upon her winning the Prince Claus Award.

Among other things, she tells us:

"The prize money (25,000 Euros) will be used as the cornerstone of a free media in Cuba."

"Estos se usarán para lo que podría ser la piedra fundacional de un medio de difusión libre en Cuba."

It turns out that she has the special distinction of also having been invited to the December awards ceremony in Holland along with the grand prize winner.

I think it's high time that the government let her travel.

But if she does get out, she is sure to return.

As OLPL titles his article: "Sin odios, ni adios."

Go here for Sanchez's own reaction to this and the IPI prize announced last week.  A brief interview in El Pais is here.  Also see here, here, and here for more coverage.

* * *

«Soy una persona sin odios»

Lunes 06 de Septiembre de 2010
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, La Habana

Happy Birthday Yoani from Prince Claus

Big News from Holland and La Habana

About the Prince Claus Award

See more Info on all awardees below

Yoani Sánchez (Cuba)

Yoani Sánchez (1975, Havana) is a leading figure in the use of social networking technologies to breach imposed frontiers. A graduate in philology, she is now dedicated to computer sciences and their capacity to alter perceptions and generate social change. She works as a webmaster, columnist and editor for Desde Cuba, an online news portal.

Determined to promote freedom of information and to speak out regardless of danger, in 2007, Yoani Sánchez set up a blog, Generation Y.

Her regular posts offer punchy accounts of the day-to-day environment. Avoiding direct criticism and global politics, her blog provides subjective insights into the practical difficulties people face.

Emphasising the vital importance of material autonomy for any form of active citizenship, her subjects include unaffordable food, shortage of proteins and vegetables, the turgid proceedings of parliament and the lack of meaningful reforms.

Sánchez operates in a context of strict control and censorship, working clandestinely, under threat of arrest.

Local access to internet is limited and filters set up by the authorities slow and block connection to Generation Y.

Local supporters circulate her writings in emails and USB memories, and volunteers translate her Spanish reports into 22 languages. Generation Y's growth has been exponential. It is now one of the most-followed blogs in cyberspace, and a compilation has been published as Cuba Libre.

Yoani Sánchez is awarded for raising global awareness of daily Cuban realities through her blog, for her inspiring and courageous example in giving a voice to the silenced, and for demonstrating the immense impact internet communications technologies can have as tools for social change and development.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Omni Zona Franca - Yesterday in Alamar

On his two blogs, Boring Home Utopics and Lunes de Post-Revolucion, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo reports on the recent activities of the alternative arts, culture, and hip hop group Omni Zona Franca - including this new hip hop number - Protesto - against censorship.

You can go to OZF's own blog about the annual unauthorized Alamar arts festival, "Poesia Sin Fin," which means either "Endless Poetry" or "Pointless Poetry" depending on how you translate it.

Here is what Pardo writes in his own blog:

En exclusiva el más reciente tema PROTESTO de Omni Zona Franca y 26 rappers underground cubanos TODOS UNIDOS contra la censura y la mentira oficial. Desde el pasado jueves 3 de septiembre, el audio se distribuye gratis dentro de la Isla y estará recogido en varios discos de agrupaciones alternativas cubanas, para decirle alto y claro al Ministerio de Cultura que Omni Zona Franca es más cultura cubana que todas sus resoluciones y subvenciones juntas.

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page" - Saint Augustine

Please take a few minutes of your Labor Day weekend to send a letter to President Obama at the White House and Arturo Valenzuela at the State Department expressing your support for an end to the travel ban and an expansion of all kinds of people-to-people contacts between Yumas and Cubanos.

Our policy should aim to empower the Cuban people even if that opening may aid the Cuban government too; instead of our current policy which aims to harm the Cuban regime even if that inflicts collateral damage on the Cuban people.

This just in from John McAuliff.

Not long ago 758 of us sent a letter to President Obama saying "Don't Wait for Congress to Open Travel to Cuba".

Much has changed since the letter was drafted.  News stories have confirmed that the Administration is actively considering new regulations for non-tourist people to people travel.

The reports disagree about when the announcement will be made, who will be included and whether licenses will be given on a specific application case-by-case basis or as a general license that will not require an application by qualified persons or organizations.   The variation in stories may reflect contending positions within the government and in the media, or trial balloons to see what flys best.

My guess is that the President will act in the next ten days, before Congress returns from recess, most likely in the week after Labor Day.  However he will have to ignore intense opposition from the Cuban American quintet in the House and Senate and cautious political advisers who prefer to wait until after the mid-term elections in November.

My hope is that President Obama will not be satisfied simply to return us to Clinton era specific licenses and will follow the general license model he used for family reunion travel and US agricultural producers. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

The first audio tweet from Cuba on "" from you know who

I just listened to the first audio tweet from Cuba sent by Yoani Sanchez. It's only 20 seconds long but it's music to the ears. Listen to it and you'll hear what I mean. It's on a new service appropriately called ""

By the way, Sanchez turns 35 years young today and she also recorded this brief "Chirp" of thanx just three hours ago addressed to all members of her red ciudadana (citizen network) around the world who read, write, praise, and even criticize her.

Her minute-long message ends with these words:

"Gracias. Aqui estoy y voy a seguir."

(Thank you.  Here I am and I will keep going.)

Sanchez also "Tweeted" a "Chirp" from a member of the alternative art collective Omni Zona Franca. He reports that his group will indeed participate in an unauthorized hip hop "happening" in Alamar today despite encountering numerous bureaucratic obstacles and censorship.

Here is my transcription and translation of Yoani's first "Chirp."

"La tecnologia me ha hecho libre en un pais con rejas, con muros, con censura.
De manera que quiero lo mismo para mis compatriotas.
Que tengan acceso a la informacion a las noticias a lo que ocurre alli afuera y aqui adentro.
Todo aquel que pueda ayudar a un cubano a empoderarse informativamente tiene mi agradecimiento ante mano, eh!
Muchas gracias."

* * *

"Technology has made me free in a country with bars, walls, and censorship.
I want the same for my compatriots.
That they have access to information about what happens there outside and here inside.
Anyone who can help a Cuban empower him or herself with information has my thanks up front, eh!
Thank you."

PS: I even recorded and sent my own first Chirp through Twitter.  I'll be the first to admit that it's not very eloquent, and - like you - I hate to hear a recording of my own voice, but here it is for your consumption or rejection.

James Cason for Mayor of Coral Gables?!

This just in from Rui Ferreira at his blog Herejías y Caipirinhas 2.0.

El cabo Cason pa' alcalde
Pues así es, James Cason, el ex jefe de la Sección de Intereses de EEUU en La Habana, más conocido por esos lares como el 'Cabo Cason', se acaba de postular para alcalde de Coral Gables, Florida, ciudad del área metropolitana de Miami donde vive desde el año 2008. A continuación les brindo un pequeñoresumé suyo, de lo más relevante que ha hecho: grabó un disco de música guaraní interpretada por él antes de dejar la embajada en Paraguay (ver imagen al lado). Estuvo en La Habana intentando convencer a mucha gente a dar el paso al frente, pero apenas logró instalar un servicio noticioso en el techo del edificio en el Malecón, que todo el mundo en su oficina detestaba, por el ruido y el calor que producía. Desde que dejó el servicio exterior se ha dedicado a las labores de pitoniso en el Centro de Estudios Cubanos de la Universidad de Miami, profiriendo conferencias (a $1.000 la hora) sobre el futuro de Cuba. O sea, haciendo aquello que los cubanos más detestan, que un extranjero les enseñe qué pasa en su país. Tengo entendido que su experiencia en el manejo de fondos públicos consiste unicamente en distribuirlos, sin grandes contemplaciones, por sus amistades cubanas, lo cual no creo que sea suficiente para administrar una ciudad pudiente como Coral Gables, porque aquí tendrá que prestar cuentas. Si alguno de ustedes se les ocurre otra cosa, me lo dejan saber.
And here's Cuban Colada's report of the same news in English:

Ex-diplomat enters mayoral race in Florida

James Cason, the former head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana – who earned a reputation as an aggressive critic of President Fidel Castro during his diplomatic tour – is the latest contender for mayor in Coral Gables, Fla.
The election is April 12, 2011.
Cason, 65, moved to Coral Gables in 2008, after his final stint as U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay. The New Jersey native, a diplomat for 40 years, has served in the Caribbean, South (fot)America and Europe.
As the chief U.S. diplomat in Havana from 2002 to 2005, Cason angered the Cuban government when he traveled throughout the island meeting with dissidents and handing out books and shortwave radios.
A 2004 Christmas display on the U.S. Interests Section grounds – with a "75" alluding to the 75 dissidents jailed in a 2003 crackdown – prompted the government to build its own billboards across the street showing U.S. abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Cason says he does not believe Cuba will be a factor in the election.
To read the full story, in The Miami Herald, click here. For a 2004 profile in The Dallas Morning News, click here. For a 2005 feature in The Herald, by Frances Robles, click here.
(PHOTO SHOWS Cason, left, welcoming dissident Vladimiro Roca to an opposition rally at the diplomat's residence in Havana in May 2005.)

Read more:

Pirates of the Caribbean

REUTERS: Despite embargo, Cuba a haven for pirated U.S. goods
Thursday, September 2, 2010

* Pirated U.S. TV shows, movies, software abound in Cuba
* U.S.-Cuba embargo blocks legal access to most U.S. goods
* Lack of formal U.S.-Cuba relations hurts enforcement

By Esteban Israel

HAVANA, Sept 2 (Reuters) - A few weeks after Ashton Kutcher's latest comedy "Killers" premiered in the United States, the movie was already entertaining the masses in communist Cuba.

For two pesos, the equivalent of nine U.S. cents, the state-owned Yara movie theater in the heart of Havana offered Cubans a washed out and pixilated copy of Kutcher's adventures as a CIA assassin who is himself targeted for a hit.

"It's a very good flick. We just got it on DVD," says a woman in the ticket office.

The problem is that "Killers" will not be officially released on DVD in the United States until Sept. 7 and even then Cuba will be off limits due to the 48-year-old U.S. trade embargo against the Caribbean island.

But half a century of U.S. sanctions have turned Cuba into a piracy haven and a missed opportunity for U.S. businesses.

Even though the embargo forbids U.S. companies like Microsoft from exporting software to Cuba, most personal computers on the island run unlicensed copies of its Windows operating system.

Florida - So close to Cuba but yet so far away

Christian Science Monitor

No travel to 'terrorist' countries for Florida state universities: court

A challenge to a 2006 law banning state university-funded travel to countries the US deems sponsors of terrorism was struck down Tuesday. Florida-based international scholars say the decision will disrupt studies.

See this link for the decision of the Court:

By Warren Richey, Staff writer
September 1, 2010

Miami —
Florida-based international scholars are reacting with disappointment to a federal appeals court ruling that reinstates a ban on state university funding for travel to "terrorist" countries, including Cuba.

The decision greatly complicates the funding of a range of Florida-based research projects focusing on Cuba and other countries. Analysts say it could undercut existing research efforts, encourage top scholars to leave Florida, and deter others from studying or working at the state's public universities.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

BREAKING: Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez is Named IPI’s 60th and Final World Press Freedom Hero

Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez takes the stage during a performance
at the 10th Biennale of Contemporary Art in Havana March 29, 2009.
Photo credit: REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa

El Yuma just got word that our friend and favorite blogger Yoani Sanchez has just been named the 60th and final World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute (IPI).

All 60 IPI World Press Freedom Heroes will be honoured at the IPI 2010 World Congress in Vienna and Bratislava (11-14 September 2010) to coincide with IPI's 60th year of defending and promoting press freedom worldwide.

Now that Raul has allowed Juan Juan Almeida, as well as the critical musicians Los Aldeanos, Gorki Aguila, and Silvito El Libre to travel outside of Cuba recently, I wonder if Sanchez will be permitted to return to Europe to receive her prize. Vienna and Bratslava are right next door to Zurich where Sanchez lived for 2 years between 2002-2004. It would be a glorious return for her a short 6 years later!

Below is the official announcement, and you can go here for the full list of all 60 awardees from across the world. Yoani should be proud to count herself in the company of greats like Argentine journalist Jacobo Timerman (at right).