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April 22, 2014

Today Is 14th Anniversary of Democrats' Infamous Betrayal of Elián González



GonzalezElianSeizedOn2000-04-22.jpg"In this April 22, 2000 file photo, Elian Gonzalez is held in a closet by Donato Dalrymple, one of the two men who rescued the boy from the ocean, right, as government officials search the home of Lazaro Gonzalez, early Saturday morning, April 22, 2000, in Miami. Armed federal agents seized Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives before dawn Saturday, firing tear gas into an angry crowd as they left the scene with the weeping 6-year-old boy." Source of caption and photo: online version of JENNIFER KAY and MATT SEDENSKY. "10 years later, few stirred by Elian Gonzalez saga." Omaha World-Herald (Thurs., April 22, 2010): 7A. (Note: the online version of the article is dated April 21, 2010 and has the title "10 years after Elian, US players mum or moving on.")





Today (April 22, 2014) is the 14th anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history---when the Democratic Clinton Administration seized a six year old child in order to force him back into the slavery that his mother had died trying to escape.








November 3, 2013

Castro First Fired, and Then Jailed, Economist Chepe, Who Defended Capitalism



ChepeOscarEspinosaCubanEconomist2013-10-23.jpg "Oscar Espinosa Chepe in 2010." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT obituary quoted and cited below.



(p. B15) Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a high-ranking Cuban economist and diplomat who became a vocal critic of Fidel Castro in the 1990s but chose to remain in Cuba, despite enduring harassment and imprisonment, died on Monday [September 23, 2013] . . .


. . .


Mr. Espinosa Chepe (pronounced CHEH-pay) lost his job as an official of the National Bank of Cuba in 1996 after advocating the limited restoration of capitalist principles like the right to buy and sell one's home or start a business.

He then became a journalist, writing articles for American and Spanish-language Web sites in which he used statistical data to analyze Cuba's economic problems. In March 2003 he was one of 75 activists arrested as part of a government crackdown on dissent known as the Black Spring.


. . .


Mr. Espinosa Chepe, who joined Castro's revolutionary government in the early 1960s and was once head of the powerful Office of Agrarian Reform, had frequently clashed with fellow economic planners over policies he considered overly dogmatic.

His internal critique became increasingly adamant after 1991, when the loss of the Soviet Union's financial support began taking a devastating toll on the country's economy. But his proposals for change, many of which had already been adopted in former Soviet bloc states, were labeled counterrevolutionary, said Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a professor emeritus of economics and Latin American studies at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert on Cuban economic policies.



For the full obituary, see:

PAUL VITELLO. "Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Cuban Economist and Castro Critic, Dies at 72." The New York Times (Fri., September 27, 2013): B15.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date September 25, 2013.)






June 15, 2013

Cuban Government Employees "Are Known for Surly Service, Inefficiency, Absenteeism and Pilfering"



(p. A10) However small, . . . , the private sector is changing the work culture on an island where state employees earn meager salaries and are known for surly service, inefficiency, absenteeism and pilfering.

Sergio Alba Marín, who for years managed the restaurants of a state-owned hotel and now owns a popular fast-food restaurant, said he was very strict with his employees and would not employ workers trained by the state.

"They have too many vices -- stealing, for one," said Mr. Alba, who was marching with his 25 employees and two large banners emblazoned with the name of his restaurant, La Pachanga. "You can't change that mentality."

"Even if you could, I don't have time," he added. "I have a business to run."



For the full story, see:

VICTORIA BURNETT. "HAVANA JOURNAL; Amid Fealty to Socialism, a Nod to Capitalism." The New York Times (Thurs., May 2, 2013): A6 & A10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 1, 2013.)






April 22, 2013

Today Is 13th Anniversary of Democrats' Infamous Betrayal of Elián González



GonzalezElianSeizedOn2000-04-22.jpg"In this April 22, 2000 file photo, Elian Gonzalez is held in a closet by Donato Dalrymple, one of the two men who rescued the boy from the ocean, right, as government officials search the home of Lazaro Gonzalez, early Saturday morning, April 22, 2000, in Miami. Armed federal agents seized Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives before dawn Saturday, firing tear gas into an angry crowd as they left the scene with the weeping 6-year-old boy." Source of caption and photo: online version of JENNIFER KAY and MATT SEDENSKY. "10 years later, few stirred by Elian Gonzalez saga." Omaha World-Herald (Thurs., April 22, 2010): 7A. (Note: the online version of the article is dated April 21, 2010 and has the title "10 years after Elian, US players mum or moving on.")





Today (April 22, 2013) is the 13th anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history---when the Democratic Clinton Administration seized a six year old child in order to force him back into the slavery that his mother had died trying to escape.










May 15, 2012

Cuban Dissident Dies after Communist Police Beat Him in Park



(p. 12) Havana

OUTSIDE the sun is blindingly hot, and in the immigration office 100 people are sweating profusely. But no one complains. A critical word, a demanding attitude, could end in punishment. So we all wait silently for a "white card," authorization to travel outside Cuba.

The white card is a piece of the migratory absurdities that prevent Cubans from freely leaving and entering their own country. It is our own Berlin Wall without the concrete, the land-mining of our borders without explosives. A wall made of paperwork and stamps, overseen by the grim stares of soldiers. This capricious exit permit costs over $200, a year's salary for the average Cuban. But money is not enough. Nor is a valid passport. We must also meet other, unwritten requirements, ideological and political conditions that make us eligible, or not, to board a plane.


. . .


Thousands of Cubans have been condemned to immobility on this island, though no court has issued such a verdict. Our "crime" is thinking critically of the government, being a member of an opposition group or subscribing to a platform in defense of human rights.

In my case, I can flaunt the sad record of having received 19 denials since 2008 of my applications for a white card.


. . .


That same afternoon, as I was issued one more denial, my cellphone rang insistently in my pocket. A broken voice related to me the last moments in the life of Juan Wilfredo Soto, a dissident who died several days after being handcuffed and beaten by the police in a public park. I sat down to steady myself, my ears ringing, my face flush.

I went home and looked at my passport, full of visas to enter a dozen countries but lacking any authorization to leave my own. Next to its blue cover my husband placed a report of the details of Juan Wilfredo Soto's death. Looking from his face in the photograph to the national seal on my passport, I could only conclude that in Cuba, nothing has changed.



For the full commentary, see:

YOANI SANCHEZ. "The Dream of Leaving Cuba." The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., April 22, 2012): 12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary is dated April 21, 2012.)






April 22, 2012

Today Is Tweflth Anniversary of Democrats' Infamous Betrayal of Elián González



GonzalezElianSeizedOn2000-04-22.jpg"In this April 22, 2000 file photo, Elian Gonzalez is held in a closet by Donato Dalrymple, one of the two men who rescued the boy from the ocean, right, as government officials search the home of Lazaro Gonzalez, early Saturday morning, April 22, 2000, in Miami. Armed federal agents seized Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives before dawn Saturday, firing tear gas into an angry crowd as they left the scene with the weeping 6-year-old boy." Source of caption and photo: online version of JENNIFER KAY and MATT SEDENSKY. "10 years later, few stirred by Elian Gonzalez saga." Omaha World-Herald (Thurs., April 22, 2010): 7A. (Note: the online version of the article is dated April 21, 2010 and has the title "10 years after Elian, US players mum or moving on.")





Today (April 22, 2012) is the twelfth anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history---when the Democratic Clinton Administration seized a six year old child in order to force him back into the slavery that his mother had died trying to escape.










February 14, 2012

Marco Rubio's Parents Worked Hard so He Could Do Something He Loves



RubioMarco2012-02-04.jpg


Marco Rubio. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.




(p. 10) Your parents came to Miami from Cuba in the 1950s. Your dad became a bartender, and your mom worked as a hotel maid, among other jobs. Was it always clear that you wouldn't follow them into a service job?

The service industry is hard, honorable work, but early on my parents drove it into us that a job is what you do to make a living; a career is when you get paid to do something that you love. They had jobs so I could have a career.


. . .


Koch Industries, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are among your top career campaign contributors. What do you say to people who believe that they're investing in you so that you'll push to overhaul the tax code to their benefit?

People buy into my agenda. I don't buy into anyone's agenda. I tell people what I stand for, and the things I've stood for were the same at the very beginning, when none of those people were giving me money.



For the full interview, see:

ANDREW GOLDMAN, interviewer. "TALK; Marco Rubio Won't Be V.P." The New York Times Magazine (Sun., January 29, 2012): 10.

(Note: ellipsis added; bold in original.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date January 26, 2012.)






July 16, 2011

Castro's Communist Goons Impound Cuba Libre



SanchezYoaniCubanBlogger.jpg "Her writing, said Yoani Sánchez, above in her Havana apartment, describes "the sentiments of one person but sums up the reality of many people."" Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. C1) Like any other first-time author, Yoani Sánchez was looking forward to receiving copies of her book, "Cuba Libre," after it was published last year. But when the package sent from Buenos Aires by her publisher arrived in Havana, the Cuban customs service impounded the parcel and, after she complained, sent her a notice explaining its action.

"The content of the book entitled 'Free Cuba' transgresses against the general interests of the nation, in that it argues that certain political and economic changes are necessary in Cuba in order for its citizens to enjoy greater material well-being and attain personal fulfillment," stated the document, which Ms. Sánchez posted on her Web site. Such positions "are extremes totally contrary to the principles of our society."

Outside her homeland, though, Ms. Sánchez's writing is free of such censorship, and she has emerged as an important new voice, both literary and political. Published in the United States in May under the title "Havana Real" (Melville House), her book draws on the same collection of sketches of daily life in Cuba -- a dreary, enervating routine of food shortages, transportation troubles and narrowed opportunity -- that she has been posting on her Web site, Generation Y (desdecuba.com/generationy), since 2007.


. . .


(p. C6) Recently Ms. Sánchez completed a second book, a manual whose title translates as "Wordpress: A Blog for Speaking to the World." A new fiber-optic cable connecting Cuba with South America has just been laid, and when it begins fully operating later this summer, it is likely to increase opportunities not just for her, but for other dissident bloggers and writers, many of whom have attended the seminars she conducted that led to the writing of the second book.

"It's interesting that we're talking not about a bearded 80-year-old man, but a sharp, fearless, skinny 35-year-old mother," said Ted Henken, an expert on Cuba and the Internet who teaches at the City University of New York and visited Ms. Sánchez in April. "That's new, and in some ways, by spreading the virus of blogging and tweeting to others, she has displaced Che and Fidel among young, progressive people."



For the full story, see:

LARRY ROHTER. "In Cuba, the Voice of a Blog Generation." The New York Times (Weds., July 6, 2011): C1 & C6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story is dated July 5, 2011.)






April 22, 2011

Today Is Eleventh Anniversary of Democrats' Infamous Betrayal of Elián González



GonzalezElianSeizedOn2000-04-22.jpg"In this April 22, 2000 file photo, Elian Gonzalez is held in a closet by Donato Dalrymple, one of the two men who rescued the boy from the ocean, right, as government officials search the home of Lazaro Gonzalez, early Saturday morning, April 22, 2000, in Miami. Armed federal agents seized Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives before dawn Saturday, firing tear gas into an angry crowd as they left the scene with the weeping 6-year-old boy." Source of caption and photo: online version of the Omaha World-Herald article quoted and cited below.



Today (April 22, 2011) is the eleventh anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history---when the Democratic Clinton Administration seized a six year old child in order to force him back into the slavery that his mother had died trying to escape.


(p. 7A) MIAMI (AP) - When federal agents stormed a home in the Little Havana community, snatched Elian Gonzalez from his father's relatives and put him on a path back to his father in Cuba, thousands of Cuban-Americans took to Miami's streets. Their anger helped give George W. Bush the White House months later and simmered long after that.


. . .


Elian was just shy of his sixth birthday when a fisherman found him floating in an inner tube in the waters off Fort Lauderdale on Thanksgiving 1999. His mother and others drowned trying to reach the U.S.

Elian's father, who was separated from his mother, remained in Cuba, where he and Fidel Castro's communist government demanded the boy's return.

Elian was placed in the home of his great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, while the Miami relatives and other Cuban exiles went to court to fight an order by U.S. immigration officials to return him to Cuba. Janet Reno, President Bill Clinton's attorney general and a Miami native, insisted the boy belonged with his father.

When talks broke down, she ordered the raid carried out April 22, 2000, the day before Easter. Her then-deputy, current U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, has said she wept after giving the order.

Associated Press photographer Alan Diaz captured Donato Dalrymple, the fisherman who had found the boy, backing into a bedroom closet with a terrified Elian in his arms as an immigration agent in tactical gear inches away aimed his gun toward them. The image won the Pulitzer Prize and brought criticism of the Justice Department to a frenzy.


. . .


The Cuban government, which tightly controls media access to Elian and his father, said neither is willing to give an interview. A government representative agreed to forward written questions from the AP to Elian, but there has been no response.

Pepe Hernandez, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, said his group predicted in 2000 that Elian would become a prop for the Castro government if he were returned. It was one reason, he said, the group fought for him to be kept in the U.S. and would do it again today, although behind the scenes to avoid negative publicity for the Cuban-American community.

"We knew what this kid was going to be subjected to," Hernandez said. "And time has proven us right."



For the full story, see:

JENNIFER KAY and MATT SEDENSKY. "10 years later, few stirred by Elian Gonzalez saga." Omaha World-Herald (Thurs., April 22, 2010): 7A.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated April 21, 2010 and has the title "10 years after Elian, US players mum or moving on.")





April 21, 2011

To "Rejuvenate" Communist Party, Castros Pick New Number Two



MachadoJoseRamonNewCubanNumberTwo2011-04-20.jpg"A Cuban Leader Not Named Castro. After talk about the need for rejuvenation, President Raúl Castro of Cuba selected José Ramón Machado, left, 80, for the party's second-highest post." Source of caption: p. A1 of the print version of the NYT article quoted and cited below. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below. (The photo appeared at the top of p. A1 and referred the reader to the related article on p. A11.)




(p. A11) HAVANA -- Cuba on Tuesday made the most significant change to its leadership since the 1959 revolution, naming someone other than the Castro brothers for the first time to fill the second-highest position in the Communist Party and possibly setting the stage for their eventual successor.

The appointment, at the party's first congress in 14 years, coincided with a blizzard of changes opening the way for more private enterprise. Taken together, the actions were meant to pull the revolution, at 53, out of a midlife crisis that has led to a sinking economy and, even in the estimation of President Raúl Castro, stagnant thinking.

But Mr. Castro, for all his talk about the need to rejuvenate the system, in the end stuck with the old guard, many of them fellow military officers, for now.

"The rebel army is the soul of the revolution," he said, quoting Fidel Castro, his brother.

President Castro, 79, had hinted that he might select a young up-and-comer to guide a post-Castro era. Instead, he tapped a party stalwart, José Ramón Machado, 80, who fought at his side in the mountains during the rebellion.



For the full story, see:

RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD. "Cuba Lays Foundation for a Post-Castro Leader." The New York Times (Weds., April 19, 2011): A11.

(Note: the online version of the story is dated April 19, 2011 and has the title "'Cuba Lays Foundation for a New Leader.")





February 26, 2011

How Bacardi Fought Predatory Taxation in Pre-Castro Cuba



BacardiAndTheLongFightForCubaBK2011-02-05.jpg











Source of book image: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/21/business/21shelf.html?_r=1





(p. W6) When it comes to chronicling the Bacardi rum dynasty, the best model may be "Buddenbrooks" or some other novelistic attempt to capture the experience of a family business trying to survive across generations. Tom Gjelten's "Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba" -- though fact-driven history and far more upbeat that Thomas Mann's tale of dynastic decline -- feels very much in this literary tradition.


. . .


Perhaps the most fascinating figure in the Bacardi tale is José Bosch, called Pepín, a young businessman who also married into the Bacardi family and was an early opponent of Gerardo Machado's corrupt rule in the 1920s. Machado made Bacardi, one of Cuba's most successful companies, a target of predatory taxation, but a proposed rum tax was more than the distiller could stand. Bacardi opened new facilities in Mexico and threatened to move its operations there if the tax was enacted. The Cuban legislature dropped the idea -- and Bacardi soon found itself with a Mexican distillery it didn't need, trying to sell a liquor to tequila- quaffing public that didn't want it.

Bosch was dispatched in 1933 to shut down the Mexican facility, but instead he saved it. "Noticing that Mexicans drank a lot of Coca-Cola," Mr. Gjelten writes, Bosch urged the company to promote Bacardi-and-Coke cocktails. Observing the rich tradition of Mexican handicrafts, he also suggested that the locals would be more inclined to drink rum if it was sold in the sort of wicker-covered jugs often used for it in Cuba. Sales in 1934 doubled.



For the full review, see:

ALVARO VARGAS LLOSA. "The Family Spirit." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., September 12, 2008): W6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)


The book being reviewed, is:

Gjelten, Tom. Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause. New York: Viking Penguin, 2008.





January 25, 2011

Cuban Government Gets Billions by "Exporting" Doctors; Some Defect



RamirezFelixCubanDoctor2011-01-21.jpg "Dr. Felix Ramírez in Gambia in 2008." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A1) Felix Ramírez slipped into an Internet cafe in the West African nation of The Gambia, scoured the Web for contact information for U.S. diplomats, then phoned the U.S. embassy in Banjul, the capital.

He told the receptionist he was an American tourist who had lost his passport, and asked to speak to the visa section. As he waited to be connected, he practiced his script: "I am a Cuban doctor looking to go to America. When can we meet?"

Dr. Ramírez says he was told to go to a crowded Banjul supermarket and to look for a blond woman in a green dress--an American consular official. They circled one another a few times, then began to talk.

That furtive meeting in September 2008 began a journey for the 37-year-old surgeon that ended in May 2009 in Miami, where he became a legal refugee with a shot at citizenship.

Dr. Ramírez is part of a wave of Cubans who have defected to the U.S. since 2006 under the little-known Cuban Medical Professional Parole immigration program, which allows Cuban doctors and some other health workers who are serving their government overseas to enter the U.S. immediately as refugees. Data released to The Wall Street Journal under the Freedom of Information Act shows that, through Dec. 16, 1,574 CMPP visas have been issued by U.S. consulates in 65 countries.

Cuba has been sending medical "brigades" to foreign countries since 1973, helping it to win friends abroad, to back "revolutionary" regimes in places like Ethiopia, Angola and Nicaragua, and perhaps most importantly, to earn hard currency. Communist Party newspaper Granma reported in June that Cuba had 37,041 doctors and other health workers in (p. A12) 77 countries. Estimates of what Cuba earns from its medical teams--revenue that Cuba's central bank counts as "exports of services"--vary widely, running to as much as $8 billion a year. Many Cubans complain that the brigades have undermined Cuba's ability to maintain a high standard of health care at home.



For the full story, see:

JOEL MILLMAN. "New Prize in Cold War: Cuban Doctors." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., JANUARY 15, 2011): A1 & A12.


CubanDefectingDoctorsGraph2011-01-21.jpg















Source of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.







December 2, 2010

Castro's Reform: Private Restaurants May Now Have Up to 20 Seats



CubanRestaurant2010-11-14.jpg "Restaurants, . . . , offer limited menus." Source of caption: print version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below. Source of photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A18) HAVANA--A package of capitalist reforms from President Raúl Castro is creating something new for many Cubans: uncertainty.

Since 1959, when Fidel Castro rode into Havana atop a tank, the Cuban state has promised its people the certainty of a job, food, education and health care. No one expected to get rich under the arrangement; the old joke here is that people pretend to work, and the government pretends to pay them.


. . .


On the island, where many Cubans have taken to using the word "changes," rather than "reforms," to refer to the restructuring, people remain cautious. Some suspect that once the economy recovers and small businesses begin to grow, the Cuban government will tighten the noose on entrepreneurs with stricter regulation and steep taxes.

A restaurant on Calle Animas offers an example of such frustrations. Opened in 1996 after an effort by Fidel Castro to jump-start the domestic economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has never expanded, because of a law that limits privately owned restaurants to only 12 seats. "It's the rules, you live by them," the owner says.

Prices are high--about $20 for a lunch with fish from the fixed menu--largely, the owner says, because she can't find ingredients anywhere except in underground markets, where prices are steep. Under the new rules, private restaurants will be permitted to have up to 20 seats. Still, the owner complains that state-run restaurants in the tourist district, which don't face such restrictions, have many more than 20 seats.




For the full story, see:

A WSJ Staff Reporter. "Cubans Dip a Toe in Capitalist Waters; As State Cuts Half a Million Jobs, Future Looks Murky to Some; 'We're Being Left to Fend for Ourselves'." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., October 6, 2010): A18.

(Note: ellipses added.)






October 15, 2010

What Cuba Must Do to Welcome Entrepreneurs



BlancoSerafinCuban2010-0.jpg"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." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A6) "Things move very slowly in Cuba be-(p. A9)cause they are very, very concerned about breaking the balance of power with economic reforms," said Jorge Sanguinetty, president of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, a research group. "This is the reality. They don't want to emulate Gorbachev when he started making reforms in Russia and the whole thing came down."

Mr. Sanguinetty, who served as a senior economic official with the Cuban government until he resigned in June 1966, said that Cuba might be just beginning the long, painstaking process of rebuilding the most basic economic relationships. He noted that Cuba even eliminated accounting schools in the first decade after the 1959 revolution because officials thought money would be unnecessary, and that many Cubans had no experience with credit cards, banks or checks. Now, he said, the government must move forward -- with import-export licenses, with clearer communication about rules -- if it hopes to make entrepreneurs a vital element of the economy.



For the full story, see:

DAMIEN CAVE. "Near to Cuba, Wary Kin Wait for Proof of a New Path." The New York Times (Weds., September 22, 2010): A6 & A9.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated September 21, 2010 and has the slightly different title "Near Cuba, Wary Kin Wait for Proof of a New Path.")





October 5, 2010

Cuban Communists to Fire Half a Million Workers, But Will Allow Them to Become Piñata Salesmen



CubanStateStreetSweeperInHavana2010-10-01.jpg"A Cuban State worker (center) sweeps the streets in Havana." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A1) Cuba will lay off more than half a million state workers and try to create hundreds of thousands of private-sector jobs, a dramatic attempt by the hemisphere's only Communist country to shift its nearly bankrupt economy toward a more market-oriented system.

The mass layoffs will take place between now and the end of March, according to a statement issued Monday by the Cuban Workers Federation, the island nation's only official labor union. Workers will be encouraged to find jobs in Cuba's tiny private sector instead.

"Our state can't keep maintaining...bloated payrolls," the union's statement said. More than 85% of Cuba's 5.5 million workers are employed by the state.


. . .


(p. A15) Cubans who decide to go into business for themselves will find a series of obstacles, including very high taxes, lack of access to credit and foreign exchange, bans on advertising, limits on the number of people they can hire, and a litany of small-print government regulations, experts say.

Cuba's government has a list of 124 "authorized" activities for people who want to employ themselves. Among them: Toy repairman, music teacher, piñata salesman and carpenter. Carpenters are allowed only to "repair existing furniture or make new furniture upon the direct request of a customer." They cannot make "furniture to sell to the general public."



For the full story, see:

José de Córdoba and Nicholas Casey. "Cuba Unveils Huge Layoffs in Tilt Toward Free Market." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., SEPTEMBER 14, 2010): A1 & A15.

(Note: ellipsis added between paragraphs; ellipsis internal to paragraph was in original.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the title "Cuba to Cut State Jobs in Tilt Toward Free Market.")



CastroPinata2010-10-01.jpg














This particular piñata model is expected to be a hot seller for the new piñata salesmen. Source of photo: http://cdn.smosh.com/smosh-pit/4/pinata-7.jpg






October 3, 2010

First Castro on "The Simpsons" Repudiated Communism; Now the Real Castro Does the Same






The clip is from the "embed" option of YouTube, and is apparently from The Simpsons episode "The Trouble with Trillions" which Wikipedia says ". . . is the twentieth episode of the ninth season of the animated television series The Simpsons, which originally aired April 5, 1998."


After viewing the above clip from YouTube, and reading the quote below from the NYT, you may be excused for concluding that the best way to learn what Castro is really thinking is to watch the Simpsons:


(p. A6) Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in his blog for Atlantic magazine that he asked Mr. Castro, . . . , last week if Cuba's model of Soviet-style Communism was still worth exporting to other countries. "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore," Mr. Castro said, according to the report. Mr. Goldberg said that Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, thought Mr. Castro's answer was an acknowledgment that the state played too big a role in the economy. The comment appeared to reflect Mr. Castro's support for the economic reforms instituted by his younger brother, President Raúl Castro.


For the full story, see:

REUTERS. "Cuba: Communist Economic Model Loses a Stalwart Defender." The New York Times (Thurs., September 9, 2010): A6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date September 8, 2010.)


I ran across the Simpson Castro clip on ("The Lede; Blogging the News With Robert Mackey.")





August 28, 2010

Cuban Health Care Checkup



(p. A17) . . . it's a good time to check in on the state of the Cuban health-care system. That's just what Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, does in the current issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.


. . .


Slightly more than half of all Cuban physicians work overseas; taxed by the Cuban state at a 66% rate, many of them wind up defecting. Doctors who remain in the country earn about $25 a month. As a result, Ms. Garrett writes, they often take "jobs as taxi drivers or in hotels," where they can make better money. As for the quality of the doctors, she notes that very few of those who manage to reach the U.S. can gain accreditation here, partly because of the language barrier, partly because of the "stark differences" in medical training. Typically, they wind up working as nurses.

As for the quality of medical treatment in Cuba, Ms. Garrett reports that hospital patients must arrive with their own syringes, towels and bed sheets. Women avoid gynecological exams "because they fear infection from unhygienic equipment and practices." Rates of cervical cancer have doubled in the past 25 years as the use of Pap tests has fallen by 30%.

And while Cuba's admirers love to advertise the country's low infant mortality rate (at least according to the Castro regime's dubious self-reporting) the flip-side has been a high rate of maternal mortality. "Most deaths," Ms. Garrett writes, "occur during delivery or within the next 48 hours and are caused by uterine hemorrhage or postpartum sepsis."



For the full commentary, see:

BRET STEPHENS. "Dr. Berwick and That Fabulous Cuban Health Care; The death march of progressive medicine." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., JULY 13, 2010): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)


Reference to the Garrett article:

Garrett, Laurie A. "Castrocare in Crisis; Will Lifting the Embargo Make Things Worse?" Foreign Affairs 89, no. 4 (July/August 2010): 61-73.





April 23, 2010

April 22nd Was Tenth Anniversary of Democrats' Infamous Betrayal of Elian Gonzalez



GonzalezElianSeizedOn2000-04-22.jpg"In this April 22, 2000 file photo, Elian Gonzalez is held in a closet by Donato Dalrymple, one of the two men who rescued the boy from the ocean, right, as government officials search the home of Lazaro Gonzalez, early Saturday morning, April 22, 2000, in Miami. Armed federal agents seized Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives before dawn Saturday, firing tear gas into an angry crowd as they left the scene with the weeping 6-year-old boy." Source of caption and photo: online version of the Omaha World-Herald article quoted and cited below.



Yesterday (April 22, 2010) was the tenth anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history---when the Clinton Administration seized a six year old child in order to force him back into the slavery that his mother had died trying to escape.


(p. 7A) MIAMI (AP) - When federal agents stormed a home in the Little Havana community, snatched Elian Gonzalez from his father's relatives and put him on a path back to his father in Cuba, thousands of Cuban-Americans took to Miami's streets. Their anger helped give George W. Bush the White House months later and simmered long after that.


. . .


Elian was just shy of his sixth birthday when a fisherman found him floating in an inner tube in the waters off Fort Lauderdale on Thanksgiving 1999. His mother and others drowned trying to reach the U.S.

Elian's father, who was separated from his mother, remained in Cuba, where he and Fidel Castro's communist government demanded the boy's return.

Elian was placed in the home of his great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, while the Miami relatives and other Cuban exiles went to court to fight an order by U.S. immigration officials to return him to Cuba. Janet Reno, President Bill Clinton's attorney general and a Miami native, insisted the boy belonged with his father.

When talks broke down, she ordered the raid carried out April 22, 2000, the day before Easter. Her then-deputy, current U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, has said she wept after giving the order.

Associated Press photographer Alan Diaz captured Donato Dalrymple, the fisherman who had found the boy, backing into a bedroom closet with a terrified Elian in his arms as an immigration agent in tactical gear inches away aimed his gun toward them. The image won the Pulitzer Prize and brought criticism of the Justice Department to a frenzy.


. . .


The Cuban government, which tightly controls media access to Elian and his father, said neither is willing to give an interview. A government representative agreed to forward written questions from the AP to Elian, but there has been no response.

Pepe Hernandez, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, said his group predicted in 2000 that Elian would become a prop for the Castro government if he were returned. It was one reason, he said, the group fought for him to be kept in the U.S. and would do it again today, although behind the scenes to avoid negative publicity for the Cuban-American community.

"We knew what this kid was going to be subjected to," Hernandez said. "And time has proven us right."




For the full story, see:

JENNIFER KAY and MATT SEDENSKY. "10 years later, few stirred by Elian Gonzalez saga." Omaha World-Herald (Thurs., April 22, 2010): 7A.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated April 21, 2010 and has the title "10 years after Elian, US players mum or moving on.")





February 12, 2010

"The Bus -- La Guagua -- Always Comes for Those Who Wait"



HerreraCarmen2010-01-24.JPG "Carmen Herrera in her Manhattan loft, surrounded by her art. She sold her first work in 2004." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. 1) Under a skylight in her tin-ceilinged loft near Union Square in Manhattan, the abstract painter Carmen Herrera, 94, nursed a flute of Champagne last week, sitting regally in the wheelchair she resents.

After six decades of very private painting, Ms. Herrera sold her first artwork five years ago, at 89. Now, at a small ceremony in her honor, she was basking in the realization that her career had finally, undeniably, taken off. As cameras flashed, she extended long, Giacomettiesque fingers to accept an art foundation's lifetime achievement award from the director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Her good friend, the painter Tony Bechara, raised a glass. "We have a saying in Puerto Rico," he said. "The bus -- la guagua -- always comes for those who wait."

And the Cuban-born Ms. Herrera, laughing gustily, responded, "Well, Tony, I've been at the bus stop for 94 years!"

Since that first sale in 2004, collectors have avidly pursued Ms. Herrera, and her radiantly ascetic paintings have entered the permanent collections of institutions like the Museum of Modern Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and the Tate Modern. Last year, MoMA included her in a pantheon of Latin American artists on exhibition. And this summer, during a retro-(p. 29)spective show in England, The Observer of London called Ms. Herrera the discovery of the decade, asking, "How can we have missed these beautiful compositions?"

In a word, Ms. Herrera, a nonagenarian homebound painter with arthritis, is hot. In an era when the art world idolizes, and often richly rewards, the young and the new, she embodies a different, much rarer kind of success, that of the artist long overlooked by the market, and by history, who persevered because she had no choice.

"I do it because I have to do it; it's a compulsion that also gives me pleasure," she said of painting. "I never in my life had any idea of money and I thought fame was a very vulgar thing. So I just worked and waited. And at the end of my life, I'm getting a lot of recognition, to my amazement and my pleasure, actually."


. . .


But Ms. Herrera is less expansive about her own art, discussing it with a minimalism redolent of the work. "Paintings speak for themselves," she said. Geometry and color have been the head and the heart of her work, she added, describing a lifelong quest to pare down her paintings to their essence, like visual haiku.

Asked how she would describe to a student a painting like "Blanco y Verde" (1966) -- a canvas of white interrupted by an inverted green triangle -- she said, "I wouldn't have a student." To a sweet, inquiring child, then? "I'd give him some candy so he'd rot his teeth."

When pressed about what looks to some like a sensual female shape in the painting, she said: "Look, to me it was white, beautiful white, and then the white was shrieking for the green, and the little triangle created a force field. People see very sexy things -- dirty minds! -- but to me sex is sex, and triangles are triangles."


. . .


Ms. Herrera's late-in-life success has stunned her in many ways. Her larger works now sell for $30,000, and one painting commanded $44,000 -- sums unimaginable when she was, say, in her 80s. "I have more money now than I ever had in my life," she said.

Not that she is succumbing to a life of leisure. At a long table where she peers out over East 19th Street "like a French concierge," Ms. Herrera, because she must, continues to draw and paint. "Only my love of the straight line keeps me going," she said.




For the full story, see:

DEBORAH SONTAG. "At 94, She's the Hot New Thing in Painting, and Enjoying It." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., January 20, 2010): 1 & 29.

(Note: the online version of the article has the title "At 94, She's the Hot New Thing in Painting" and is dated January 19, 2010.)



HerreraCarmenBlancoYVerde2010-01-24.JPG
HerreraCarmenRedStar2010-01-24.JPG








Ms. Herrara's ""Blanco y Verde" (1966-7)."









"Ms. Herrera's "Red Star" from 1949."

Source of captions and photos: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.







January 3, 2010

Castro Agents Beat Up Cuban Blogger



SanchezYoaniCubanBlogger2009-12-19.jpg"Blogger Yoani Sánchez speaks at home in Havana on Monday, days after she says she was beaten by Cuban agents." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A14) Yoani Sánchez, Cuba's most prominent dissident blogger, was walking along a Havana street last Friday along with two other bloggers and a friend when two men she says were Cuban agents in civilian clothes forced her inside an unmarked black car and beat her, telling her to stop criticizing the government.

The assault, believed to be the first against the growing blogger movement on the island, has cast a spotlight on the country's record of repression, highlighting how little change there has been in political freedoms during the nearly three years since Raúl Castro took over as president from retired dictator Fidel Castro.

A decline in tourism revenues from the global recession and damage from several hurricanes last year have prompted the island's government to clamp down even harder on dissent and freedom of speech, according to a recent report by the Inter American Press Association, a watchdog group.

The group said Cuba currently has 26 journalists in jail, and it cited 102 incidents against Cuban journalists in the past year, including beatings, arbitrary arrests and death threats.




For the full story, see:

DAVID LUHNOW. "Beating Rattles Cuban Bloggers." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., NOVEMBER 11, 2009): A14.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated NOVEMBER 12, 2009.)





January 1, 2010

Castro's "Absolute Personal Dictatorship" Denounced By Former Member of Cuban Inner Circle



AutobiographyOfFidelCastroBK.jpg















Source of book image:
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2575/4095461227_09463c5680.jpg



(p. C1) The plethora of dictators, despots and revolutionaries-turned-authoritarians south of the border has spawned a genre of literature that might be called the Latin American Strongman Novel -- a genre that includes harrowing novels based on real historical figures, like Mario Vargas Llosa's dazzling "Feast of the Goat" (which depicted Rafael Trujillo's devastating rule over the Dominican Republic) and more mythic creations, like Gabriel García Márquez's "Autumn of the Patriarch," that have employed the sorcery of magical realism to conjure larger-than-life fictional tyrants in a panoply of ruthlessness, audacity and corruption.

The latest in this tradition of books is Norberto Fuentes's fascinating new novel, "The Autobiography of Fidel Castro," which purports to tell the longtime Cuban leader's story in his own words. The "self-portrait" that emerges from these pages is that of a Machiavellian survivor: an egomaniac who identifies himself with the revolution but who is loyal not to a cause, not to an ideology, not to his compatriots, but only to his own ambition.

This Fidel is narcissistically longwinded, like his real-life counterpart. He is also a self-mythologizing change agent who succeeds in making himself "the neurological center of an entire nation" -- a wily Nietzschean operator who believes in the force of his own will, while sensing that "the chameleon is going to last longer under his rock than the lion, despite its roaring and lean muscles." He is a cynical master of manipulation and strategic maneuvering, a skilled practitioner of the black arts of propaganda and gamesmanship who always wants "to keep people guessing."

A journalist and Hemingway (p. C7) scholar, Mr. Fuentes was once a cheerleader of the revolution and part of Mr. Castro's inner circle himself. He grew disillusioned with the Cuban leader, however, after two army officers were executed in 1989 on what many believe were trumped-up charges. Mr. Fuentes fell out of favor, came under government surveillance and was detained after a failed attempt to flee Cuba by boat. After a hunger strike and the intervention of Mr. García Márquez, he was allowed to leave the country in 1994, and has since denounced Mr. Castro for his "absolute personal dictatorship" and willingness "to do anything necessary to stay in power."




For the full story, see:

MICHIKO KAKUTANI. "Books of The Times; Fiction Trying for Truth in Novel's View of Dictator." The New York Times (Tues., December 15, 2009): C1 & C7.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated Mon., December 14, 2009.)



FuentesNorberto2009-12-19.jpg





"Norberto Fuentes" Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.






November 26, 2009

Vicente Locay, Rest in Peace



My friend Luis called yesterday (11/24/09) to tell me that his father, Vicente Locay had passed away.

Vicente was not a tall man, but he stood tall at key moments in his life.

Over the years, Luis told many stories about what Vicente said and did in Cuba. One of my favorites was that Vicente, not being particularly religious, had no plans to have Luis christened. But when Castro outlawed public displays of Catholicism, Vicente changed his mind, and made sure that Luis had the benefits of a public christening.

When it became increasingly clear what was in store for Cuba under Castro's dictatorship, Vicente managed to get his family on a rickety plane, and escape.

In Cuba, Vicente had owned several small businesses. In the U.S., he started over, without ever mastering English. He worked hard remodeling houses to support his family.

For many years, I had hoped that Vicente would outlast Fidel, and would return in triumph to a post-Fidel Havana.

It's too late for that to happen. The best we can do is to acknowledge and salute a man of courage and strength, who chose freedom.





September 14, 2008

Cubans Skeptical of Their Government


CubanCellPhone.jpg "Cubans used a cellphone to take photos in Havana recently after Cuba's government lifted some restrictions on consumer items." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A16) MEXICO CITY -- A rare study conducted surreptitiously in Cuba found that more than half of those interviewed considered their economic woes to be their chief concern while less than 10 percent listed lack of political freedom as the main problem facing the country.

"Almost every poll you ever see, even those in the U.S., goes to bread-and-butter issues," said Alex Sutton, director of Latin American and Caribbean programs at the International Republican Institute, which conducted the study. "Everybody everywhere is interested in their purchasing power."

The results showed deep anxiety about the state of the country, with 35 percent of respondents saying things were "so-so" and 47 percent saying they were going "badly" or "very badly." As for the government's ability to turn things around, Cubans were skeptical, with 70 percent of those interviewed saying they did not believe that the authorities would resolve the country's biggest problem in the next few years.

The study, to be released on Thursday, was conducted from March 14 to April 12, after Raúl Castro officially took over the presidency.



For the full story, see:

MARC LACEY. "In Rare Study, Cubans Put Money Worries First." The New York Times (Thurs., June 5, 2008): A16.

(Note: the order of some of the article content differed in the print and online versions; the version above is consistent with the print version.)




August 25, 2008

Castro's Legacy Is Fear


CastroPhotosOnWall.jpg "A NATION'S PHOTO ALBUM. The prospect of life without Fidel Castro is unsettling to many Cubans, who are wary of drastic change." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 1) We arrived not at the fine new airport in Havana I've used many times as a correspondent, but at a smaller, more crowded one that Cuba uses for these family visits, as if to rebuke exiles for having left.

Our reunion was delayed, however, by the surprise announcement last Tuesday that Fidel Castro -- whose revolution had torn the family apart -- was too ill to return to power. Suddenly, I was at work.

. . .

Still, what most surprised us was how little Cubans clamored for drastic change. Dictator or hero, Mr. Castro's grip on power was ending, and no one seemed to care. Miriam was disappointed that the streets of Matanzas, Havana, San Agustín and Guanabacoa, the working class city across Havana Bay where she grew up, were tranquil, as if nothing at all had happened.

Of course we understood that things are not always as they seem, and that became clear when the maid in our 133-year-old hotel came to mop up the mess caused by a leaking pipe. Hearing the lilt of Miriam's Spanish put her at ease. After chatting for a few minutes, she poked her head into the hallway to check for supervisors and shut the door. Only then did she speak from the heart.

"Nobody says it, but everybody knows that someone new could be worse than what we have now," she whispered. It was the kind of dec-(p. 8)laration I've learned to trust because it stems from neither fear nor a desire to curry favor.

Despite having plenty of motivation to demand change -- the frequent shortages, the decrepit housing, the cruelty of having one currency for tourists and another with far less buying power for Cubans -- she said she feared change more than she feared the status quo. Then she checked the hallway again.

. . .

Truth is, things have changed since my first trip to Cuba in 1978. The heavy presence of the Soviet Union then is a faint shadow now, reflected in blue-eyed Cubans named Yuri. There seem to be more new cars on the roads, more fast food on the street, and more buildings undergoing repair. There even seem to be more buses and fewer people waiting for them since Fidel's younger brother and temporary replacement, Raúl, publicly demanded that something be done about the pitiful mass transit system when I was here just a year ago.

But much has not changed, or has gotten worse. More families live two or three generations in the same cramped apartments. Detention, interrogation and other troubles still descend on people who dissent in ways as small as wearing a plastic wrist band embossed with the word "cambio," which means change. The press is still controlled, and disloyalty to the Communist Party still raises the suspicion of neighbors that can lead to the loss of a job or a house. Dissidents remain enemies of the state.

. . .

The revolution itself has left many Cubans, including our relatives here, fed up with promises of change. They long ago tired of sacrificing for an ideal tomorrow; when we finally got together, three days after Fidel's announcement, Miriam's stepbrothers and sisters told me their main concerns are getting enough to eat, getting shoes for their children and getting to work on time each day.



For the full commentary, see:

ANTHONY DePALMA. "Future to Wince At." The New York Times, Week in Review Section (Sun., February 24, 2008): 1 & 8.

(Note: ellipses added.)




June 28, 2008

Raúl Castro Decrees that Cubans May Now Buy DVD Players, Computers, and Cell Phones


HavanaDVDplayer.jpg "Cubans in Havana recently bought DVD players, among newly available appliances." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A1) HAVANA -- Can a rice maker possibly be revolutionary?

There they were, piled up one atop another, Chinese-made rice makers selling for $70 each. Beside them, sleek DVD players. Across the well-stocked electronics store were computers and televisions and other household appliances that President Raúl Castro recently decreed ought to be made available to average Cubans, or at least those who could afford them.

Since finally succeeding his ailing 81-year-old brother, Fidel, in February, Mr. Castro, 76, who appeared before hundreds of thousands of Cubans at a May Day rally on Thursday here in the capital, has been busy with a flurry of changes. In the last eight weeks he has also opened access to cellphones, lifted the ban on Cubans using tourist hotels and granted farmers the right to manage unused land for profit.

More is on the horizon, government officials say, like easing restrictions on traveling abroad and the possibility of allowing Cubans to buy and sell their own cars, and perhaps even their homes. Each of these changes may be microscopic in contrast to the outsize problems facing Cuba. But taken together, they are shaking up this stoic, time-warped place.


For the full story, see:

MARC LACEY. "Stores Hint at Change Under New Castro." The New York Times (Fri., May 2, 2008): A1 & A8.




February 11, 2008

Cubans Salute General Eléctrico


      "Two artists, Alejandro Leyva, left, and Esteban Leyva, with their "General Eléctrico," found a new use for an old appliance."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below. 


 



(p. 3)  In their decades of isolation from the American economy and from global prosperity, Cubans have been taught to take pride in the way they have kept grandiose old mechanical marvels running -- ancient Cadillacs and Russian-built Ladas included.


"They took away my señor and replaced him with a little guy," said a 47-year-old cook who lives in the Reparto Zamora district in western Havana. Welcoming a visitor to her kitchen, she pointed to the slim, white Chinese-made Haier that had taken the place of the bulky, pink Frigidaire that had been in her family for 24 years.


She called herself Moraima Hernández, but indicated with a wink that she was concealing her real name -- the only way she felt able to speak without fear of retaliation. Well, up to a point. She declined to say why she felt Mr. Castro was casting a shadow over items as banal as household appliances.


Instead, she simply opened the Haier to reveal its meager contents: bottles of tap water, a few eggs, mustard, half an avocado and some "textured picadillo," soy protein mixed with a bit of ground beef.


Her old refrigerator was so big, she said nostalgically, that two legs of pork could fit inside.


. . .


Inspired by the ingenuity it took to keep American refrigerators working so long, a group of Cuban artists last year transformed 52 of them into art. They put on a show called "Instruction Manual" that was a big hit in Cuba and is making the rounds in Europe this year.


In the show, the artists Alejandro and Esteban Leyva pinned medals on an old G.E. refrigerator, painted it olive drab and named it "General Eléctrico." Another artist, Alexis Leyva, installed oars on his refrigerator, drawing on the politically loaded symbol of the homemade boats Cubans use to leave the island illegally. Others were made into cars, skyscrapers a Trojan horse and a jail cell.


Ernesto García Peña, a painter, turned his into an eroticized female image. "In this heat," he explained, "the refrigerator is almost worshiped for its role as an absolute necessity of modern life. We treat it with very special affection."


 


For the full story, see: 


SIMON ROMERO.  "THE WORLD; In Cuba, a Politically Incorrect Love of the Frigidaire."  The New York Times , Week in Review Section  (Sun., September 2, 2007):  3.


(Note:  ellipses added.)


 


  "Cold War Relic.   A 1950s-era American refrigerator dominates one woman's Havana apartment."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above. 


 




December 4, 2007

Cuba's Best Doctors Not Blind to Incentives Offered by "Communist" Government

 

   "Patients at the Ramón Pando Ferrer eye hospital in Havana."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. A4)  Cuban doctors abroad receive much better pay than in Cuba, along with other benefits from the state, like the right to buy a car and get a relatively luxurious house when they return. As a result, many of the finest physicians have taken posts abroad.

The doctors and nurses left in Cuba are stretched thin and overworked, resulting in a decline in the quality of care for Cubans, some doctors and patients said.

 

For the full story, see:   

JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.  "Havana Journal;  A Health System’s ‘Miracles’ Come With Hidden Costs."  The New York Times   (Tues., November 20, 2007):  A4. 

 




November 13, 2007

In Cuba, to Survive "You Have to Resort to the Black Market"

 

Lady Liberty is rightly aghast at life in Havana.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

My friend Luis Locay has warned me in the past to be sceptical of articles that express optimism about Raul Castro being a friend of the free market.  One such article is excerpted below.  (I am hoping Luis is wrong.) 

 

Raúl Castro has taken several small but meaningful steps over the last year that suggest that he wants to open up Cuban society and perhaps move to a market-driven system, without ceding one-party control, not unlike what has happened in China. During the 1990s, he supported limited private enterprise and foreign investment, reforms his brother reversed four years ago.

. . .

On the economic front, Raúl Castro has allowed the importation of televisions and video disc players. He has told the police to let pirate taxis operate without interference. He pledged to spend millions to refurbish hotels, marinas and golf courses. He even ordered one of the state newspapers to investigate the poor quality of service at state-controlled bakeries and other stores.

Perhaps his most important step, however, was to pay the debts the state owed to private farmers and to raise the prices the state pays for milk and meat. Cubans still live on rations and cope with chronic shortages of staples like beef. Salaries average about $12 a month, and most people spend three-quarters of their income on food, according to a study by Armando Nova González, an economist at the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy in Havana.

“What a person makes is not enough to live on,” said Jorge, a museum guard who asked that his last name not be used because he feared persecution. “You have to resort to the black market to get along. No, not just to get along, to survive.” He said he and his wife together made about $30 a month, just enough to support their family of four.

But Raúl Castro has disappointed many Cubans who had expected significant changes once he took power. He has always deferred to his brother, and he seems to lack the political power to take major actions until Fidel either gives up total control or dies, experts on Cuba said.

 

For the full story, see:

JAMES C. McKINLEY, Jr.  "Cuba’s Revolution Now Under Two Masters."  The New York Times  (Fri., July 27, 2007):  A3.

 

 

  The top photo shows Raúl Castro giving the annual speech celebrating the Cuban revolution.  (Fidel Castro became ill after the previous year's speech.)  The lower photo shows the reaction to Raúl's speech from the crowd.

 




August 23, 2007

"I Couldn't Write a Prescription for Antiobiotics, Because There Were None"

 

    "THE DOCTOR MIGHT BE IN Cubans young and old at a Havana clinic in 2004."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article cited below. 

 

CUBA works hard to jam American TV signals and keep out decadent Hollywood films. But it’s a good bet that Fidel Castro’s government will turn a blind eye to bootleg copies of “Sicko,” Michael Moore’s newest movie, if they show up on the streets of Havana.

“Sicko,” the talk of the Cannes Film Festival last week, savages the American health care system — and along the way extols Cuba’s system as the neatest thing since the white linen guayabera.

Mr. Moore transports a handful of sick Americans to Cuba for treatment in the course of the film, . . .

. . .

Universal health care has long given the Cuban regime bragging rights, though there is growing concern about the future. In the decades that Cuba drew financial and military support from the Soviet Union, Mr. Castro poured resources into medical education, creating the largest medical school in Latin America and turning out thousands of doctors to practice around the world.

But that changed after the collapse of the Soviets, according to Cuban defectors like Dr. Leonel Cordova. By the time Dr. Cordova started practicing in 1992, equipment and drugs were already becoming scarce. He said he was assigned to a four-block neighborhood in Havana Province where he was supposed to care for about 600 people.

“But even if I diagnosed something simple like bronchitis,” he said, “I couldn’t write a prescription for antibiotics, because there were none.”

He defected in 2000 while on a medical mission in Zimbabwe and made his way to the United States. He is now an urgent-care physician at Baptist Hospital in Miami.

Having practiced medicine in both Cuba and the United States, Dr. Cordova has an unusual perspective for comparison.

“Actually there are three systems,” Dr. Cordova said, because Cuba has two: one is for party officials and foreigners like those Mr. Moore brought to Havana. “It is as good as this one here, with all the resources, the best doctors, the best medicines, and nobody pays a cent,” he said.

But for the 11 million ordinary Cubans, hospitals are often ill equipped and patients “have to bring their own food, soap, sheets — they have to bring everything.”  . . .

. . .

Until he had to have emergency surgery last year, Fidel Castro — who turned 80 this year — was considered a model of vibrant long life in Cuba. But it was only last week that he acknowledged in an open letter that his initial surgery by Cuban doctors had been botched. He did not confirm, however, that a specialist had been flown in from Spain last December to help set things right. 

 

For the full commentary, see: 

ANTHONY DePALMA.  "‘Sicko,’ Castro and the ‘120 Years Club’."  The New York Times, Section 4  (Sun., May 27, 2007):   3. 

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 




August 19, 2007

Fred Thompson Skewers Michael Moore with Wit and Wisdom

Mr. Moore was back from Cuba, where he made a documentary on the superiority of Castro's health-care system. Mr. Thompson suggested Mr. Moore is just another lefty who loves dictators. Mr. Moore challenged Mr. Thompson to a health-care debate and accused him of smoking embargoed cigars. Within hours Mr. Thompson and his supposedly nonexistent staff had produced a spirited video response that flew through YouTube and the conservative blogosphere. Sitting at a desk and puffing on a fat cigar, Mr. Thompson announces to Mr. Moore he can't fit him into his schedule. Then: "The next time you're down in Cuba . . . you might ask them about another documentary maker. His name was Nicolás Guillén. He did something Castro didn't like, and they put him in a mental institution for several years, giving him devastating electroshock treatments. A mental institution, Michael. Might be something you ought to think about."

You couldn't quite tell if Mr. Thompson was telling Mr. Moore he ought to think more about Cuba, or might himself benefit from psychiatric treatment. It seemed almost . . . deliberately unclear.

 

PEGGY NOONAN.  "DECLARATIONS; The Man Who Wasn't There."  The Wall Street Journal  (Sat., May 19, 2007): P14.

(Note:  ellipsis in original.)

 

See Fred Thompson's response to Michael Moore on YouTube at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ds_GhRxivOI  

 

    Source:  screen capture from Fred Thompson's response to Michael Moore at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ds_GhRxivOI

 




April 21, 2007

Castro's Legacy of "Death, Tears and Blood"

Like thousands of other Cubans, I was arrested in the middle of the night. Fidel Castro's police raided my parents' home, stuck a machine gun in my face and took me away. It was 1960 and I was 22 years old.

The news that the Cuban dictator is gravely ill floods my mind with memories of my years spent in captivity. I believe that those of us who were political prisoners know his legacy better than anyone. For 22 years, I was an inmate in his vast prison system, mostly confined to an island gulag, for crimes I did not commit.

. . .

The legacy of Castro for Cuba will be much like that of Stalin in Russia, Pol Pot and Ieng Sari in Cambodia and Hitler in Germany. It will be the memories of the unknown numbers of victims, of concentration camps, torture, murder, exile, families torn apart, death, tears and blood. Castro will go down in history as one of the cruelest of all dictators -- a man who tormented his own people.

But his poisonous legacy will also include the double standard by foreign governments, intellectuals and journalists who fought ferociously against the unspeakable violations of human rights by right-wing dictatorships, yet applauded Castro. To this day many of these intellectuals serve as apologists and accomplices in the subjugation of the Cuban people. Rafael Correa, the recently inaugurated president of Ecuador, has declared that in Cuba there is no dictatorship. Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, considers Castro his mentor and has already shown that he is willing to silence his own critics at the point of a gun. Venezuela, once a democracy, is the new Cuba, replete with a growing population of political prisoners.

 

For the full commentary, see: 

ARMANDO VALLADARES.  "Castro's Gulag." The Wall Street Journal  (Mon., March 5, 2007):  A16.

 




August 23, 2006

Cuban Bureaucrats Fooled by Castro Impersonator

CastroImpersonator.jpg  Castro impersonator Eddy Calderón.  Source of photo:  online version of WSJ article cited below. 

 

(p. A1)  Mr. Calderón says the work can be risky.  Once, he recalls, a woman whose relative had been executed by the revolution hurled a dinner plate at his head.  At a recent gig, a tiny, white-haired lady shouted at him:  "Why did you ruin the country?" Mr. Calderón, as Fidel, answered that she should thank him because if it hadn't been for him, she'd be stuck in Cuba instead of living well in Miami, "where you can buy hair dye and dentures."

After the Aug. 13 performance, a ballroom attendant, Armando Montes de Oca, approached Mr. Calderón while he was still in his Castro beard and told him:  "If I didn't know you were Calderón behind that beard, you would never leave (p. A9) this room alive."

"Thank you," Mr. Calderón replied.

Mr. Calderón has been doing his imitation of Fidel for about a dozen years.  He became a local superstar two years ago when a cable-TV channel started weekly broadcasts of a skit called "La Mesa Retonta," or "The Idiots' Table," a takeoff on a weekly "Meet the Press"-style show Mr. Castro has done in Cuba, called "La Mesa Redonda," or "The Roundtable."

Mr. Calderón's Fidel voice is so good that on about 50 occasions, he has telephoned Cuban bureaucrats in Havana or Cuban diplomats abroad and fooled them into thinking they were on the line with the man himself.  Mr. Calderón taped the calls, which he still often plays on a Miami radio show.

Two years ago, Mr. Calderón held a 12-minute conversation with Cuba's deputy construction minister, ordering him to build a giant retractable roof over Havana's Latin American stadium, as a way to improve conditions for Cuban baseball players and dissuade them from defecting.

"We need a revolutionary roof to uphold the pride of the Cuban Revolution," said Mr. Calderón during the taped telephone call, in a dead-on imitation of Mr. Castro's edgy, high-pitched, nasal voice.

"I am your unconditional soldier," replied the hapless minister, who promised to get the job done.

That same year, Mr. Calderón telephoned a luxury hotel at Cuba's Varadero beach resort and ordered the hotel manager to provide a week-long all-expense-paid vacation for one of Cuba's leading dissidents, whose movements are shadowed by the secret police, to show the government's good will.  Before hanging up, the hotel manager, Mr. Calderón says, promised to make the reservation.

A year earlier, Mr. Calderón as Fidel told transport official Gumersindo Gómez to round up 200 scarce buses for an outing of some 700 priests of the Afro-Cuban religion Santería, and to find room for their sacrificial goats and chickens.  Make sure the buses don't have any graffiti saying "down with You-Know-Who," he added.

"Fatherland or death," Mr. Calderón said.

"Onwards to victory," replied Mr. Gómez, according to the tape of the phone call.

 

For the full story, see:

JOSÉ DE CÓRDOBA.  "Fidel Castro's Illness Has Impersonators Scrambling to Adapt In Miami; Mr. Calderón Does El Jefe's Voice Perfectly; New Role for Brother Raúl."  Wall Street Journal  (Fri., August 18, 2006):  A1 & A9. 




April 28, 2006

"Damn it Fidel! What are you going to do about this lousy, piece-of-**** island of yours?"

 

   Source of image of book:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1586483242/qid=1145298612/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/104-9985403-1047968?s=books&v=glance&n=283155

 

Fernando Cardosa is the former Brazilian President who is best known for having temporarily tamed Brazil's runaway inflation.  Although not a principled believer in the free market, Cardoso made some efforts to reduce the damage the Brazilian government was doing to the economy.  The following startling passage is from a useful review of a new memoir by Cardoso:

 

. . . ,  Mr. Cardoso mentions a telling moment at a 1999 summit meeting in Havana.  When the heads of state were alone at a luncheon, one said to Castro:  "Damn it Fidel!  What are you going to do about this lousy, piece-of-**** island of yours?   We're sick of apologizing for you all the time, Fidel.  It's getting embarrassing."   The anecdote shows how disingenuous Latin governments can be when they remain silent about the Cuban dictatorship.

 

For the full review, see:

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY.  "A Leader Who Got Real."  The Wall Street Journal  (Thurs., April 6, 2006):  D8.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 

Here is the full reference to Cardoso's memoir:

Cardoso, Fernando Henrique.  The Accidental President of Brazil:  A Memoir.  PublicAffairs, 2006.  [with Brian Winter;  291 pages;  $26.95]

 




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