Breaking the status quo

The images coming in from New York and Jersey in the wake of Sandy are horrendous, so you can only imagine the magnitude of the destruction this hurricane brought to Cuba’s rural eastern half.

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The Cuba Study Group and Friends of Caritas Cubana have just launched a joint effort to raise funds for the Cuba victims of Hurricane Sandy.  From their release, which you can read in its entirety at the Cuba Study Group website:

Four years ago, our community was extremely generous in helping to provide relief to the thousands of victims of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in Cuba. This year, Hurricane Sandy has been no less devastating to our brothers and sisters in the island. Early reports state that at least 11 people have died and more than 130,000 homes have been damaged, including 15,400 that were destroyed, and many others left without roofs, electricity or water. The devastation is severe and you can see pictures of it here.

Thousands of Cuban families need our help urgently. Thus the Cuba Study Group and Friends of Caritas Cubana are working together to raise money to help the victims of this disaster.

We encourage you to make a contribution as soon as possible to ensure that assistance reaches the Cuban victims of this hurricane expeditiously.

You can make a donation today by visiting the Friends of Caritas Cubana website here, or by mailing a check to the following address:

Friends of Caritas Cubana
81 Washington Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

The two cities most affected by Sandy were Santiago and Holguín.  Please help bring desperately needed relief to their residents today.

Spain not engaging in Grossball

October 30th, 2012 | Posted by Alex in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Spain’s Foreign Minister will meet with Cuba’s, looking to find a solution to Angel Carromero’s case that allows his return to Spain.

Spain, of course, is not hampered by ineffective and pandering legislation that prevents a meeting between the two countries, nor does it surrender its foreign policy to a vocal minority, intent on continuing feeding their political industry.

At the corner of Yield and One Way

October 30th, 2012 | Posted by Alex in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Highly recommended: “Cuba’s New Now” the cover story of the latest issue of National Geographic.

Most of the Cubans I talked to seemed consumed, in fact, by this whole idea of possibility. Not permanent transformation, most would say, not yet; the Cuban government has a history of switching signals on its citizens, encouraging private enterprise and then pronouncing it counterrevolutionary and shutting it down again. But Raúl Castro is not his brother, and there’s a particularly Cuban combination of excitement, wariness, calculation, black humor, and anxiety that accompanies even the possibility of real change—the suggestion that after a half century under Fidel, something big may truly be happening to the way Cubans live day to day.

The print story included several graphics, one of which got my attention:

You can see what happened to remittances of money by Cubans in the US to their families, after Bush imposed the draconian restrictions championed by hardliners. They went up. It shows that Cubans would rather be scofflaws than abandoning their families, and it shows how unproductive is a policy that pushes otherwise.

I was also moved by a phrase used by NG cartographer Juan Jose Valdes, describing an episode when his father got lost in Miami, and he was able to guide him home using a map. “At the corner of Yield and One Way” it’s also where Cubans have found themselves for over 50 years. We need a new map to guide us out of the status quo.

We highly recommend you read Ann Louise Bardach’s piece for this month’s issue of Pacific Standard on the cadre of would-be successors waiting in the wings for that mythical day when Fidel, and ultimately his brother, at long last estiren las patas. 

Ms. Bardach is often criticized here in Miami for getting her facts wrong, but that’s often to divert attention from all she does get right.  While its nearly impossible to divine exactly who will take over after the Castro brothers are out of the picture. The takeaway here is clear:

  1.  The list of Castro family members, Generals, historicos, ruling Raulistas and vanquised Fidelistas who may succeed the brothers is looong.
  2. Apropos to my post two days ago, Bardach notes that “as long as the U.S. and Cuba continue their Cold War mambo, the army will remain at the center of power.”

Thus if we want to see change in Cuba, we should stop following the Generals’ lead, and take away their #1 excuse for not retiring (i.e. their epic struggle against the US embargo).

And don’t miss the cool interactive companion feature to the article (just click on the image below):


Cuba after Fidel, on HuffPo Live

October 29th, 2012 | Posted by Alex in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Had the pleasure to participate in a HuffPo Live panel, hosted by Alicia Menendez, on this subject. You can see it below, or read the discussion here.

Mac Margolis over at The Daily Beast wrote a good piece on Raul Castro’s modest economic and migratory reforms. In it, he asks:

Why have the promised changes been so slow and so timid? In a recent interview with NPR, Cuban-born sociologist Enrique Pumar, of Catholic University in Washington, D.C., blamed the stalled reforms on an encrusted mindset in Havana. While China and Vietnam are run by “new generations of leaders that have not experienced the revolution,” he said, Cuba is still in the hands of the same men who marched out of the Sierra Madre. Hence, Castro and his commissars have little enthusiasm for scrapping the rules…The result is a series of halfhearted reforms by old men in camouflage.

Mr. Margolis missed a key point.  These old men have spent their entire lives justifying their iron grip rule and economic blunders as necessary measures to stave off “U.S. aggression”.  It’s the only way they know to govern.  As long as we maintain hostile relations toward them -meaning as long as Helms-Burton continues to dictate our Cuba policy- we’re giving them a raison d’être.  And even when they must retire, they’ll look to their sexa- and septuagenerian comrades -loaded with capacious loyalty and little vision- to take their seats.

If we really want to see a new generation of leaders take over in Cuba, the United States should do its part by eliminating its isolationist policies toward the island, giving the younger generations a leg on which to rise up and the current leadership a reason to drop the fatigues and get out the way.

Jesús Arboleya Cervera at Progreso Weekly took a hard look at Cuba’s recently announced migratory reforms and offers this enlightening analysis. While I wish he had also explored the reforms’ ramifications for political oppositions members and professionals such as doctors and attorneys, there is still much here to be hopeful about:

The immigration law and Cuba’s relationship with the émigrés

By Jesús Arboleya Cervera

HAVANA – Although a prestigious jurist friend of mine cautioned me that to interpret the law God had invented lawyers, I dare to share some opinions on the impact that the immigration reforms might have on Cuba’s relationship with Cubans who live abroad.

The new law upholds the establishment of diverse categories of migrants.

• Cuban citizens residing in Cuba who travel “for private reasons.” These can remain outside the country up to 24 months, twice the period allowed previously, and renew their stay abroad by visiting the Cuban consulates abroad and paying a monthly fee.

Under this status, the “temporariness” of their stay abroad can be extended for an indefinite period. Within this category we find minors who in the past could not leave the country on a temporary basis but now can do it with the authorization of their parents or tutors. The departure of minors can be arranged while his/her parents are abroad.

Those who travel under these conditions retain all their rights and properties in Cuba, even their jobs during the time stipulated by law, or their pensions if they are retired. They can travel to Cuba freely, remaining on the island without time limitations, or can even return permanently, if they so wish.

Also, by visiting the Cuban consulates abroad, they can modify that status and become “residents abroad.” The advantage is that they won’t have to pay monthly fees, and their right to stay abroad, which until now was 90 days, can be extended to six months.  


A Cuban iconoclast passes away

October 26th, 2012 | Posted by Alex in Cuban opposition - (1 Comments)

I’m an unabashed admirer of Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, who passed away in Havana today, at the age of 77.

His eventful life was the stuff from novels and movies are made. Born in Spain, his family moved to Cuba, after his father and brothers fought against Franco’s dictatorship. He soon followed, joining Castro’s army in the fight against Batista, raising to the status of commander. Then, disappointed with Castro, left for Miami where he organized an armed commando group –the later much discredited Alpha 66– and returned to Cuba, only to be captured and spend 22 years in jail. You’ll think at that point he would just retire in Miami and spend his old years sipping cafecito at Versailles. Instead, he founded the moderate organization Cambio Cubano, advocating for a peaceful resolution of the Cuban conflict, including talks with Castro’s government. And then, in a move that surprised everyone, after being shunned in Miami by the fanatical fringe for his now moderate views, he visited Cuba in 2003 and declared he was staying in his country and would claim legal status for his opposition organization –which he did, even to the face of El Comandante himself.

Cuban exiles have a name for those who act purely on principle no matter what, refusing to bend for politics, convenience or personal gain. They are called “verticales” or verticals. Well, in this exile where so many who define themselves as verticals don’t deserve it, Menoyo was the most vertical of verticales.

From 2000 to 2012, almost one million Cubans traveled abroad. Of those, only 120,705 (12.8%) decided not to return. So much for the “escape valve” theory that hardliners keep using to scare off rational policies of engagement.

And one thousand Cuban immigrants return to reside in Cuba every year.

Looking at the numbers, does it make sense to perpetuate isolationist policies that aim to keep Cubans bottled up inside the island?

First the FBI investigation, then the IRS, then the State Attorney’s Office, then the FBI again for a totally seperate charge, and now this:

U.S. Rep. David Rivera was charged Wednesday by state authorities with 11 counts of violating ethics laws for filing bogus financial disclosure forms, misusing campaign funds and concealing a $1 million consulting contract with a Miami gambling business while serving in the state Legislature.

Investigators with the Florida Commission on Ethics found that Rivera’s secret deal to work as a political consultant for the Magic City Casino — formerly the Flagler Dog Track — created a conflict of interest for the lawmaker. The ethics panel also found that the Republican broke state ethics laws by failing to fully disclose his finances from 2005 to 2009.

David Rivera’s response? I’m innocent, the world is just out to get me:

“There is absolutely no legitimate reason for the Commission to have acted now on these old politically motivated claims, which have already been dismissed by other authorities, other than to try and influence the outcome of this election for its own agenda,” Rivera said.

But…his attorneys and buddies are sure acting like he’s guilty:

The commission was originally scheduled to consider the complaints against Rivera on Sept. 6, but the hearing was postponed at Rivera’s request, records show. Last week, Rivera’s attorneys again tried to delay the case until after the Nov. 6 election, and Rivera himself contacted a commission member seeking a delay. Ken Pruitt, the former president of the Florida Senate, also tried to intervene on Rivera’s behalf, records show.

The FBI and IRS are also investigating whether Rivera should have paid taxes on the Magic City money.