Friday, October 29, 2010

¡PROTESTO! - Omni Zona Franca - ¡La Famila en Movimiento! - ¡Empingao asere¡

Omni Zona Franca en Alamar (1995-2010)

Click below to watch this hip-hop music video don't forget to turn it up! Direct from Habana del Este.

Title: ¡PROTESTO! - ¡La Famila en Movimiento!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me! - Blog stats for the curious

El Yuma (aka, Theodore Aloysius Henken II, aka, Ted) turned 39 on October 7, 2010. 

Today this blog, also called El Yuma, turns one year old.  We've been on-line for a year.  Hooray!

It turns out that back on October 7 the readers of the blog gave me an inadvertant birthday gift.  On that day, the blog received a new record of 217 visits in a single day, most coming to see the post "Twitter responds and we learn a few lessons" (many visitors were referred by Ernesto over at Penultimos Dias - thanx Ernesto).

I want to give a big, fat, Cuban "mil gracias" to all my loyal readers, commentators, those who have sent me individual e-mails, and especially to those who have placed El Yuma on thier blogrolls and linked to me in their posts over the past year.

Referral sources are one of the main way a blog grows, gains followers, and establishes a profile in the web.  The leading referral sources over the past year for El Yuma are: Yoani and her gang over at (5,705), Phil at The Cuban Triangle (4,050), Tracey at Along the Malecon (1,494), Ernesto at Penultimos Dias (1,249), and Wilfredo and Ivette at Cafe Fuerte.

For those interested, what follows is a round-up of the stats from the past year, from my very first blog post on October 29, 2009, "Aplatanado" through the Taxman post I put up yesterday, October 27.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Taxman Comes to Cuba (Part I)

El Yuma has a new post up at The Havana Note on Cuba's new tax regime for self-employment.  After I work my way through the new regs from La Gaceta Oficial, I will post a follow up.  Stay tuned.

PS: Can anyone guess the name of another Beatles song that coincides with the significance of tomorrow, Thursday, October 28, for readers of El Yuma?  Hint, the Brazilians say, "Para Bens!" on this day.

That's right - El Yuma cumple un año de existencia mañana!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Aqui Estan - PDFs of La Gaceta Oficial Nos. 11 & 12

For those interested in the fine print, here are the full texts of the two new groups of "decree-laws" regarding the layoffs, self-emplyment, and taxes for the self-employed released to the public in Havana this morning.

First, there is the relatively short 17-page group of seven laws grouped together in La Gaceta Oficial No. 11 (officially dated October 1, 2010).  Then there is La Gaceta Oficial No. 12 (dated October 8).

Courage!  This second document is 81 pages long with 14 different resolutions or decree laws.  Everything from layoffs to the new tax regime for the self-employed.

Some smoke clears on Cuban taxes, but there's a long road ahead

Here are links to five sites with info on the detailed new tax procedure and self-employment regulations made official this morning when they were published in Cuba's Gaceta Oficial.

Friends in Cuba tell me that there are long lines both at the self-employment offices and at the various newsstands that sell the two special issues of La Gaceta (Nos. 11 and 12).

I went to La Gaceta's website (and here) to see if I could download the regs. They are there but given Cuba's slow internet speeds (and perhaps the high demand for these particular regs), it takes a while to download them. Once you have them, however, I hope you have better luck than I at opening/viewing them as they are in the Russian compression program .rar.

Go here for Paul Haven's AP story.

Go here for a brief summary at the Cuba Standard Blog.

Here is Prensa Latina's take (H/T Penultimos Dias).

Finally, Granma gives the following brief announcement here.  It will cost you 1.40 in Cuban pesos.

Centro de distribución en La Habana de la Gaceta Oficial, que ayer publicó el paquete legal de reformas que, entre otras disposiciones, marca el final de casi cinco décadas en las que el Estado cubano garantizó a todos los trabajadores una plaza o un seguro de desempleo que podía ser indefinido. Foto Reuters.

"A la venta Gaceta Oficial extraordinaria especial 11 y 12"
Desde hoy lunes comienza la venta en todas las oficinas de correos y estanquillos de prensa del país, de la Gaceta Oficial, de carácter extraordinaria especial, números 11 y 12.
El contenido de la Gaceta Oficial número 11 recoge las Disposiciones Generales dictadas por los Consejos de Estado, de Ministros y su Comité Ejecutivo, acerca del proceso de reducción de las plantillas infladas, y la ampliación del ejercicio del trabajo por cuenta propia.
La edición número 12 contiene las normas que complementan dichas Disposiciones Generales, por medio de resoluciones emitidas por los ministerios de Trabajo y Seguridad Social, Finanzas y Precios, Transporte, Agricultura; del Banco Central de Cuba y el Instituto Nacional de la Vivienda.
La Gaceta Oficial número 11 tiene un precio de cuarenta centavos, y la 12 de un peso.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Different Take on Cuba's New Tax Laws

On Friday, El Yuma posted Granma's article detailing Cuba's new tax system for the self-employed along with a link to an AP article by Paul Haven describing that system.

This Reuters article by Marc Frank also unpacks the Granma article, but has a substantially different take on the significance of new tax regime and its difference from the "rudimentary" one put in place back in 1994.

Phil Peters also put up a helpful summary on Friday on his blog, The Cuban Triangle.

I will post my own analysis here on Monday - so stay tuned.

A portrait of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro is seen on the wall as a watchmaker works at his stall in Havana October 22, 2010. Credit: Reuters/Enrique De La Osa

Friday, October 22, 2010 - By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba unveiled on Friday a new tax code it said was friendlier for small business, signaling authorities are serious about building a larger private sector within the state-dominated economy.

The new system, outlined in the Communist Party daily Granma, greatly increases tax deductions, but also adds taxes and comes with a warning of stiffer enforcement of tax collection.

It replaces a rudimentary tax code in place since 1994 when some self-employment was first authorized but then squeezed by severe regulation.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Adios a la libreta?

Nick Miroff of NPR has a great audio story from this morning's Morning Edition on the fate of Cuba's much maligned and much needed ration booklet.  The story, "Amid Reforms, Cubans Fret Over Food Rations Fate," can be heard (and read) at NPR.  A translation of the story is up at Penultimos Dias.

Also, go here for a related story in this month's Harper's Magazine by American journalist Patrick Symmes, "Thirty Days as a Cuban," on his attempt to live on the average Cuban wage for one month.  My colleague, the anthropologist Ariana Harnandez Reguant, sent me the provocative article which seems to have caused a bit of a debate among Cuba-watchers.

Finally, I'm pasting below my own somewhat-lengthy description of the history of the ration booklet in Cuba taken from my book.

The Ration Booklet—A Cuban Staple
By 1962, the Cuban government had nationalized all major industries and was thus responsible for producing goods and services in sufficient quantity and at prices manageable for the mass of citizens who had supported the revolution.

The Taxman Arriveth to Cuba - "Más valen las cuentas claras" - desde Granma

You won't often find El Yuma reproducing an entire article from Granma, but this morning's paper has an extensive article covering the details of the new tax system to be put in place for the self-employed.

I will review this over the weekend and give my own analysis and interpretation next Monday.

Go here for a preliminary report from the Havana AP bureau chief Paul Haven (H/T from the always sharp Cuban Colada blog).

En materia de tributos
Más valen las cuentas claras

El pago de tributos en Cuba no es nuevo, pero en el actual escenario económico también se rediseña la política tributaria


La Habana, 22 de octubre de 2010 - Casi todos hemos pagado tributos alguna vez en la vida. Sin embargo, no siempre sabemos cómo los abonamos, cuál es su destino o mediante qué mecanismos se recaudan. Y es que, aun cuando a diario rehacemos números y cuentas para equilibrar los gastos hogareños, poco conocemos sobre conceptos como impuestos, tasas o contribuciones.

Todos los tributos se pagarán en moneda nacional independientemente del tipo de moneda en que operen los trabajadores por cuenta propia.

An Oldie but a Goodie - Who's Bitter?

Yoani Sanchez

Yoani Sanchez

Posted: October 22, 2010


A relic of crumbling Soviet era architecture along the Malecon, Havana's waterfront boulevard and seawall
Exclusive to Huffington Post
Rarely does a person interviewed complain that a journalist has interpreted their statements to the letter; more frequently the opposite occurs, when, whether from negligence or malicious intent, a clear statement is ignored, mutilated or misinterpreted. So even though Fidel Castro has accustomed us to think of him as different from common mortals, we were surprised when he said he meant the exact opposite of what he said when he told Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic magazine that, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Big in China

Soon after Cuba announced its most recent layoffs and economic reforms in the area of self-employment, El Yuma was inundated by calls from the media.

In the space of two weeks I spoke to The New York Times (twice), The Miami Herald, the AP Havana bureau, The Christian Science Monitor (twice), a Jamaican radio station, a reporter from the Dutch equivalent of AP (who is now in Cuba), and the Chinese magazine Life Week, whose reporter, Cloris, told me that it is the most widely circulated news magazine in Beijing.  Can anyone confirm or deny this?

So, exclusive to readers of El Yuma, here is the PDF of the article (en chino) that appeared yesterday on October 20, 2010 in Life Week, followed by the complete internet interview we did (en ingles).

Go here to practice your Chinese. (A special prize goes to anyone who can read the Chinese article and then tell me if I was quoted correctly based on the English transcript of the interview below.)

Read on for the text of our internet interview done from my trusty Blackberry while at the LASA conference in Toronto two weeks ago.  El mundo si es un panuelo.


Please confirm that you have received this message. Thank you for contacting me. I'm glad to share my thoughts on Cuba's new economic reforms with you. See below for my answers to your questions.

LW: Over the years, the government has reluctantly relinquished some jobs to the private sector.  In the 1990s, when faced for the first time with mounting unemployment, the government licensed some 200,000 workers to launch their own businesses.  What is Cuban government’s major guideline in this field?  What are the most important dynamics for the current decision of layoff of Cuban government?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Economix 101

Arch Ritter has a few new and quite fascinating posts up at his blog, The Cuban Economy.

Most recent is this post that chronicles the first ever joint University of Havana-Carleton University Master's Program in Economics (yes, Western Economics) started back in 1993-1994. Five full cohorts of students passed through the program before it was discontinued in 1999. Ritter describes the program briefly and provides a where-are-they-now update on the program's students.  Hint, most of them do not live in Cuba anymore - but perhaps Raul can recruit them to come back and help him push through this new round of economic reforms.

Ritter also recently posted the follow up to his post from September 17, "Fidel’s Phenomenal Economic Fiascoes: the Top Ten." As promised, he now dedicates some ink to "Cuba’s Achievements under the Presidency of Fidel Castro: The Top Ten." 

Desastres o logros?  Ud. decide!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

You've heard of Big Brother. Meet Little Brother.

There's a great new blog on the block.

It is called El pequeño hermano (Little Brother) and is written by Ernesto Morales Licea.  Parts of the blog are also available in German and English thanx to HemosOido

Morales is a Cuban journalist from Bayamo.  It's unclear to me wheather he still lives on Bayamo, has moved to Havana, or has left Cuba altogether.  However, he has a perceptive eye and sharp tongue.

Though he started blogging over the summer, I first came across his name back in April of this year when he published this long interview of Reinaldo Escobar and Yoani Sánchez, "Un límite para todos los odios," at Claudia Cadelo's blog Octavo Cerco.

He has also interviewed a number of other leading Cuban cultural figures such as Leonardo Padura, Pedro Luis Ferrer, and Aldo (of the hip-hop duo Los Aldeanos).  [I leave it to readers to guess which of the two photos below depict Morales with which artiste].  Check out his blog and take a look at his profile and photos.  The red ciudadana (citizen network) seems to be growing and growing.

On July 9, 2010, he put up his first post at El pequeño hermano which follows:

Prologue to The Little Brother, 9 July, 2010

"Finally, yes, I yielded to necessity. I often wondered how long I could resist the stimulus, the temptation, and I delayed my response as if it had something to do with the uncomfortable or inevitable.

FRANK goes to CUBA

El Yuma just got wind of the alternative magazine Frank's new number on C-U-B-A.

Go here or here to check it out.

From the editor's note:

"As far as political notoriety goes, Cuba punches far above its weight. The feisty Caribbean nation is well known for playing “David” in a longstanding conflict with its nextdoor neighbor, and still Fidel Castro and Che Guevara remain two of the most recognized characters in contemporary history.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Cutting Costs, Cuba Begins Handing Out Pink Slips

Published: October 08, 2010

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cubans faced a harsh new reality this week - dismissal slips - as the government began paring state payrolls in a cost-cutting move that has created job insecurity for the first time in years in the Communist country.

Workers were being laid off in countless industries, from hospitals to hotels, and in the biggest action to be made public so far, employees at a state-owned enterprise, the Special Protection Services Company, were told that the company would be shut down and 23,000 people let go.

It was the beginning of President Raúl Castro's plan to cut 10 percent of the government's work force, or about 500,000 people, by April in the most significant overhaul attempted since he succeeded his older brother, Fidel Castro, in 2008.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

No Swap

No talk of US-Cuba prisoner swap: US senator
(AFP) – Oct 6, 2010

WASHINGTON — A top US senator just back from a five-day visit to Cuba to meet with officials there said he did not believe there was any chance of a prisoner swap between the United States and its communist neighbor.

Ravsberg (and Dilla) on Temas (in English) - Ultimo Jueves

Two Cuba watchers who I always listen to when they talk (though I don't always agree with what they say) are the Cuban political sociologist Haroldo Dilla (pictured to the left and who now lives in the DR) and the Spanish BBC correspondent and blogger in Havana Fernando Ravsberg (pictured below with El Comandante).

This week they disagree.

A few days ago there was a bit of controversy on the web when a number of attendees to this month's "Ultimo Jueves" open debate on the 'special period' sponsored by Temas magazine and held at Fresa y Chocolate cafe on 23rd street and 10th Ave in El Vedado were not given access (it seems).

This has happened before (to a friend of mine who has a thing for spikey blong wigs) and Dilla sounded off asking Rafael Hernandez (pictured to the left) for an apology, or at least an explanation this time around.

It seems, however, that Hernandez is in Beijing (or Toronto?).

In any case, the always intrepid Fernando Ravsberg was there, inside, and gives the following fascinating, detailed description. (Can anyone out there in cyberlandia identify the economists or sociologist he mentions?)

A shout out to Havana Times for translating and posting this. HT keeps getting better and better.

"Debatiendo Temas en Cuba"
Debating Issues in Cuba
October 7, 2010
Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES — To see disagreements between the panelists on a program like Cuba's news/commentary program "Mesa Redonda" (the Round Table) is something that rarely occurs.  To also allow members of an audience to raise blunt criticisms against the government would be truly astounding.

Notwithstanding, this is what happened at the Fresa y Chocolate Cultural Center at the end of September.  In the panel discussion held there was a former economic minister of Fidel Castro, a well-known economic analyst from the University of Havana, and a renowned sociologist.

Vargas Llosa wins Nobel

Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Thursday, October 07, 2010 -- 7:12 AM ET

Mario Vargas Llosa Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

The Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa has won the 2010 Nobel
Prize in Literature.

The Swedish Academy said that it was honoring the 74-year-old
author "for his cartography of structures of power and his
trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Twitter responds... And we learn a few lessons

Tomas Bilbao at The Havana Note reports that Twitter has responded saying that a technical glitch (not the Cuban censors) is responsible for the loss of sms Twitter service in Cuba.  They are working to restore service now or advise customers the new number they have to use to Tweet in the future.

However, this brief episode tells us a few interesting things:

First, it indicates that when Yoani talks or tweets, people (including the Cuban government and the executives at Twitter) listen.

Second, the long and immediate response from the Cuban government indicates that they are very sensitive to news, PR, and critical claims about access and use of ICT and social networking in Cuba.

Third, while we continue to "kick the darkness (in Cuba) 'till it bleeds daylight" - i.e., demand transparent freedom of expression and assembly whether in the streets or on the net, we can't forget that our own counterproductive, "torpe y anacronico" embargo (in the memorable words of la flaca) and travel restrictions are responsible for part of Cuba's continued isolation from the rest of the world...

...Not to mention constituting, as always, a convenient whipping boy whenever the Cuban government needs a scapegoat for its own desire to control the free flow of information and communications.

Cuba responds - No somos nosotros, es Tio Sam y su Bloqueo maldito

El Yuma just got this comment from a reader:

Connergo has left a new comment on your post "Twitter via sms blocked in Cuba?":

"This just in. Sorry, I don't have time to translate it but in a nutshell: sort of. This is also the reason why Skype and other VOIP programs don't work here."

Descarta Cuba limitaciones en acceso a redes sociales en Internet

Por Antonio Rondón García

Moscú, 6 oct (PL) El viceministro cubano de la Informática y las Comunicaciones, José Luis Perdomo, descartó hoy alguna limitación en el acceso de sus conciudadanos a las redes sociales en Internet y denunció aquí obstáculos a las comunicaciones impuestos por el bloqueo estadounidense.

"Cuba no bloquea el acceso de ningún ciudadano al envío de mensajes a las redes sociales en Internet como Twitter o Facebook y ello es una calumnia que se ha levantado contra nuestro país", indicó el viceministro en declaraciones a Prensa Latina.

This just in from La Flaca in La Habana: Twitter Blocked from SMS in Cuba?


Yoani Sánchez


#cuba Voy a usar estos breves minutos online para contactar con el equipo de twitter y dilucidar si se trata de un bloqueo interno o externo2 minutes ago 
#cuba Twittear desde los hoteles es un asalto a los bolsillos, de ahi que necesitemos urgentemente resolver publicacion por sms3 minutes ago 
#cuba Mas de una veintena de twitteros seguimos sin voz a causa de este problema4 minutes ago 
#cuba Desde un hotel la pagina de twitter funciona, pero desde nuestros moviles ya no podemos publicar7 minutes ago 
@cuba He venido a un hotel a conectarme para poder twittear... el envio por sms sigue bloqueado8 minutes ago 
#twitter debe aclarar si su servicio nos ha censurado publicacion de tweets por sms o si ha sido el gobierno de #cuba que nos ha bloqueado17 hours ago 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Twitter via sms blocked in Cuba?

El Yuma is getting reports that the Cuban government may have begun blocking the use of Twitter when sent via cellphone sms.

Can anyone confirm this?

If this is indeed true, I guess it means that Raul doesn't subscribe to The New Yorker where Malcolm Gladwell published an article last week under the provocative title, "The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted."
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