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Just got back from an SOSCubaNYC March. I had the bullhorn for a few minutes to tell my story and why I'm there to support. So many amazing Cubans marching as one. We walked from Times Square to Union

Message from Hamlet         

Yep it does - replace blockade with embargo and you get the drift ... 🙂 The Blockade does not prohibit fishermen in Cuba from fishing, the dictatorship does; 🇨🇺-The blockade does not confis

1 minute ago, ElJavi76 said:

I just want my country back Ken. I'm not asking for reparations or acres of land they stole from my grandfather. I just want freedom for my family that still lives there. To get messages from them that don't read like this one

Primo:
Esto aqui esta malo malo primo aqui no hay nada de nada esto esta de p****a.

Y cada día c pone mas malo

Translation... there's nothing available here and it's getting worse daily. 

As far as personal reparations I don't care for a handout from what they took. I just want to be able to travel there freely and maybe buy a lil house by the beach to spend my winters on the island that birthed me. 

i think that if others share that attitude then there is more chance of getting something achieved. 

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Just to address the point that anything is better than the current communists, I don't think Cuba is the worst country in the world. There are countries that are worse or have been worse and are not communist. And countries have gone from bad to worse to even worse. Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran etc. (Not to single out the middle East, just what I am most familiar with, sure there are bad ones elsewhere too).

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6 minutes ago, Corylax18 said:

Cuban CItizens stopped believing that Line of crap years ago. As a proud U.S. in Cuba, I've never, ever had a negative interaction with a Cuban when I told them where I was from. From Pdr to Santiago. It was usually the exact opposite, excitement/encouragement.  

I wore American Flag Swim Trunks when I dove Bay of Pigs, American Flag air fresheners for cars, Thumb drives packed to the gills with American programing, Chocolates (even from Hershey). I don't remember getting as much as a sideways look. 

Most Cubans have family and friends in the U.S. and understand very well that U.S. citizens mostly dont support the embargo and they dont hold the people responsible for it. 

perhaps i should have made it more obvious, though i thought it was. i am talking about the US govt, not blaming the people. i've never heard a cuban talk disparagingly about the people or the country in general. talking govts. they are discrete items, if you like. 

i remember going to iran late 80s when the ayatollah was still alive. americans were not permitted in but aside from officials and police etc, there was not a hint of anti-american sentiment. quite the obvious. the people wanted to know about america and i have no doubt they would have welcomed ordinary americans with great hospitality. i was quite amazed at the time. really made me see the difference in what people saw as nations and govts. same for the cuban people. 

now assuming i have failed whatever lesson i was supposed to learn (we have been discussing this since FoH started and i have heard all sides but nothing to change my view on it), you'll have to excuse me. apparently we are winning gold medals out the wahzoo so i am off to watch. 

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Just now, Bijan said:

Just to address the point that anything is better than the current communists, I don't think Cuba is the worst country in the world. There are countries that are worse or have been worse and are not communist. And countries have gone from bad to worse to even worse. Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran etc. (Not to single out the middle East, just what I am most familiar with, sure there are bad ones elsewhere too).

Bijan it's not the worst country in the world (I'm not sure how you measure this or what your top 3 shittiest countries might be)... however, it's the one that matters to me because of my connection to it. It is connected to communism, and its demise is a direct result of this form of govt. I'm not sure that's even debatable. Not that Cuba was corruption free before Castro. We all know Batista was a pretty bloody SOB himself. I cannot speak about the middle east as I don't keep up with geopolitical issues there. 

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3 minutes ago, ElJavi76 said:

Bijan it's not the worst country in the world (I'm not sure how you measure this or what your top 3 shittiest countries might be)... however, it's the one that matters to me because of my connection to it. It is connected to communism, and its demise is a direct result of this form of govt. I'm not sure that's even debatable. Not that Cuba was corruption free before Castro. We all know Batista was a pretty bloody SOB himself. I cannot speak about the middle east as I don't keep up with geopolitical issues there. 

I agree with what you say. My point is that just because it sank entirely or almost entirely because of communism doesn't mean it can't sink even lower without communism.

My comments about the middle East are because there are countries there where people said nothing can be worse than X and then X went and something worse showed up.

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5 minutes ago, Ken Gargett said:

perhaps i should have made it more obvious, though i thought it was. i am talking about the US govt, not blaming the people. i've never heard a cuban talk disparagingly about the people or the country in general. talking govts. they are discrete items, if you like. 

i remember going to iran late 80s when the ayatollah was still alive. americans were not permitted in but aside from officials and police etc, there was not a hint of anti-american sentiment. quite the obvious. the people wanted to know about america and i have no doubt they would have welcomed ordinary americans with great hospitality. i was quite amazed at the time. really made me see the difference in what people saw as nations and govts. same for the cuban people. 

now assuming i have failed whatever lesson i was supposed to learn (we have been discussing this since FoH started and i have heard all sides but nothing to change my view on it), you'll have to excuse me. apparently we are winning gold medals out the wahzoo so i am off to watch. 

I dont know who said it Originally and I'll probably butcher it. But the quote that comes to mind here is: Cuban Citizens and American Citizens have more in Common with each other, than either citizen has in common with its government. Different side of the same coin. Both governments have more in common with each other than they do with their own citizens. 

You could switch the US and Cuba to plenty of other countries and it would still ring true. 

Both Governments have negatively affected their own citizens, to prove to each other who is right. 

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1 minute ago, Corylax18 said:

I dont know who said it Originally and I'll probably butcher it. But the quote that comes to mind here is: Cuban Citizens and American Citizens have more in Common with each other, than either citizen has in common with its government. Different side of the same coin. Both governments have more in common with each other than they do with their own citizens. 

You could switch the US and Cuba to plenty of other countries and it would still ring true. 

Both Governments have negatively affected their own citizens, to prove to each other who is right. 

agree with that and toss us in. 

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1 minute ago, Bijan said:

I agree with what you say. My point is that just because it sank entirely or almost entirely because of communism doesn't mean it can't sink even lower without communism.

My comments about the middle East are because there are countries there where people said nothing can be worse than X and then X went and something worse showed up.

I get it... where's the bottom? Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for, but when you hear people chanting Libertad and No Tenemos Miedo (We're not afraid)... I think they want NOT communism. I'm going to lean on the side of the Cuban protestors risking life and limb in the streets. If they say they're done with communism I have to support that. I'm sure many of them would sign up for whatever is next. 

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2 minutes ago, ElJavi76 said:

I get it... where's the bottom? Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for, but when you hear people chanting Libertad and No Tenemos Miedo (We're not afraid)... I think they want NOT communism. I'm going to lean on the side of the Cuban protestors risking life and limb in the streets. If they say they're done with communism I have to support that. I'm sure many of them would sign up for whatever is next. 

Definitely agree the future is NOT communism. There's no doubt of that.

But the current broken system, the party insiders own and run the country, but without any of the communist symbols and potentially with different insiders but with the same methods would probably be even worse as it would involve even more repression and violence.

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The people that I have spoken to are thinking that these deaths are fake. They seem to believe that these generals are leaving the island with false identification to avoid sanctions…. Very knowledgeable people saying these things 

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27 minutes ago, El Presidente said:

Daniel, I look forward to the day that you, Javi and myself can spend a week in Cuba together. I reckon between our mutual family, friends, mates, it would be a fantastic experience with many an entertaining and memorable lunch/dinner. :cigar:

From your mouth to God's ears Rob! I've been there 3 times in recent years but I know there's so much more of that island for me to see and experience. Especially in great company. I can almost taste the ceviche from Santi's. May that week come sooner rather than later! 

Libertad!

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1 hour ago, El Presidente said:

Daniel, I look forward to the day that you, Javi and myself can spend a week in Cuba together. I reckon between our mutual family, friends, mates, it would be a fantastic experience with many an entertaining and memorable lunch/dinner. :cigar:

We are going to have a blast! Wahoo and Marlin fishing on me in my boat. Can’t wait

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12 hours ago, dgixxer252525 said:

The people that I have spoken to are thinking that these deaths are fake. They seem to believe that these generals are leaving the island with false identification to avoid sanctions…. Very knowledgeable people saying these things 

To your point Daniel, social media posts are asking for pictures of the bodies and real evidence that it was these individuals. Folks might be onto something here... especially with Mexican planes flying in and out of Cuba. The end of WWII saw plenty of not so nice people (can't use other words) migrate into South America. Rats have a way of running and hiding when it hits the fan.

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Interesting :

Russian Tourism to Cuba Is on the Rise. Or Is It More than just Tourism?

There is no way of knowing if the number of Russian passengers who arrive in Cuba corresponds to the number of tourists from that country. How many travel to the island on “other business”?

 

HAVANA, Cuba. – The number of foreign visitors to Cuba during the first semester of 2021 reached only 114.440, a very low figure if compared to the same period the year before, and relatively insignificant if compared to the number in 2019 when, during the same six-month period, the number of travelers exceeded 2 million, closing in December with 4.264.558.

We could be speaking of a miracle if, in 2021, the number of foreign visitors were to reach one million. Everything seems to indicate that, in spite of the efforts, the number will be closer to half a million tourists, and only if the Russian market –the only one to increase and thus becoming the main source– remains at the level it has delivered to date.

According to the most recent data published by the Office of National Statistics (ONEI, by its Spanish acronym), 72,304 Russian tourists visited Cuba, a lot more than the 12,207 Cubans from the diaspora (11,4% less than in 2020); 4.719 from Germany (11,9% less); 3.753 from Spain (17.2% less); and 2.296 from Canada (a tremendous decrease to 0,6 % of the 400.000 Canadians that visited Cuba in 2020).

This means that, in trying to face-up to the tourism panic –or so they say– tour operators doing business with the Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR) are placing their bets on Russia, in spite of the high costs this implies regarding health risks. Russia is one of the countries having the highest incidence of COVID-19 contagion at such a critical time for Cuba with respect to the daily spread of the disease.  

Such a gamble is a desperate attempt that has required making adjustments in services usually reserved for high-standard clients –like Canadians, Europeans and even Cubans from the diaspora, or the millions of American tourists projected during the “Obama thaw” and that, apparently, will never materialize– and not for a leisure market classified as “low-yield” and “least cost-effective”.

In the opinion of experts and officials from the tourism sector, betting on the Russian market is more of an investment in the future –keeping in mind the disheartening forecast for the global market- than a business that would yield considerable and immediate profits. The costs related to the health crisis are much too high, caused -in Cuba’s case- mostly by the opening of tourist destinations in Varadero and at the northern keys in Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey, regions which face a critical and out-of-control situation.

A faculty member from the School of Tourism at the University of Havana, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said to us: “[At the Tourism Ministry] they thought the pandemic would be under control by now. If we study the promotional material of the last three months of last year, a spirit of triumphalism is evident. ‘Cuba beat the coronavirus,’ ‘Cuba is an anti-COVID paradise.’ It is a valid marketing strategy (…). They wanted to take advantage of the moment and corner the regional market, to rate higher than Cancún, than the Dominican Republic, at a time when the coronavirus was wreaking havoc in the Caribbean, but it’s all coming out wrong. Europe is closed, Canada is closed, so they opted for marketing to Russia where there are no restrictions, without regard to the risks, or to the fact that [Russia] is a low-yield tourism market (…). I think it was a desperate decision, but also a highly political rather than economic strategy, without a doubt. What Cuba is failing to earn from tourism is likely being compensated through other means, like in matters of national security which (to the Cuban government) are urgent at this time, like technology and weapons,” is this professor’s opinion, himself also an economist.

On his part, a former official at MINTUR and at the state enterprise Cubanacan S.A. (who also worked for some time promoting Cuba as a tourism destiny in Moscow and in other Russian cities), is of the opinion that there’s more to the government’s strategy than merely a gamble in a market that “in and of itself, is not promising with respect to tourism.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, this individual stated: “They are selling them high-standard facilities as if they were two and three-star hotels. Russians who come to Cuba are not the same Russians that travel to Europe, Turkey or Egypt. Cuba’s Russians adjust themselves to the “all included” package he or she bought, and takes maximum advantage of it (…). For each dollar invested, Russians yield less than a 10 cents profit (…). I have always asked myself why we kept making such absurd deals when we had products that were better suited to this low-yield market, even at the risk of having less clients or redirecting campaigns aimed at these tourists with money that went to Europe before the pandemic (…). I think the answer is that both governments benefit from the massive flow of people, from it being a constant and considerable flow of Russians to Cuba, and Cubans to Russia for “shopping” tourism, so that this massive human wave that moves back and forth can mask what really interests them: the movement of things more important than just “people sightseeing”.

The most recent statistics released by ONEI indicate a constant growth regarding the arrival of Russian travelers to the island, a total of 63% of all foreign visitors during the first semester of 2021. However, the official statistics do not distinguish between those who arrived solely on vacation (and whose final destination was a tourist facility) and those who visited Cuba on other business. There is no way of knowing if the number of passenger arrivals to Cuba corresponds exactly with the number of guests welcomed as part of a “sun-and-beaches” tourism package.

“The statistics only tell us that more than 70,000 Russians arrived in Cuba, but that doesn’t mean that it was 70,000 tourists,” according to a former Cuban diplomat and professor who resides in Cuba, who was interviewed by CubaNet.

“No doubt there is an increase in tourists. There better be a growth in the number of tourists and an important number at that, because today’s world is not the world of the 1980s. Few things can be kept secret (…) it’s difficult to hide air trafficking, maritime trafficking, especially during a pandemic (…). How do you justify three and four flights a day from Moscow to Havana if not by using tourism as pretext? Of course, they will continue to sell five-star hotels at motel prices (…), if the Russian ambassador says, ‘bring in the tourists’ and ‘stop that PCR tests nonsense’, the Cuban government will abide because it knows what is really at stake (…). Even if half of the island contracts COVID, the Russians will keep arriving in hordes. It’s not just about tourism, that’s the least of it. It’s about what’s kept hidden behind closed doors. (…) Weapons and new technologies required to operate them don’t just “arrive” on their own. We are not talking about a kitchen blender or a mobile phone. When it comes to military matters, you need the trainer and his experience,” states the former Foreign Ministry official.

During the July 11th people’s protests, the Cuban regime released unto the streets thousands of army and police agents dressed as civilians, and also its well-equipped elite forces, well-armed, well-equipped, and trained in anti-riot tactics. This is all supplied by Russia or acquired through million-dollar credits extended systematically to Cuba by the Kremlin.

In April 2015, on the occasion of Ricardo Cabrisas’ visit to Moscow, Russian Minister of Defense, Serguei Shoygu, declared that his country was willing to continue collaborating with the Cuban Armed Forces in order to modernize Cuba’s armaments. In July 2017, Cuba requested technical updating directly from Russia, and it received a transfer of cutting-edge technology. Between 2018 and 2020, Cuba was to receive credits, for the purchase of weapons, directly from the Russians in an estimated US$ 100 million.

In recent days, Russia announced it was sending to Havana two large military aircrafts loaded with “humanitarian assistance”, a gesture that, given Moscow’s preoccupation with developments in the island, would seem to be related more with a desire for a definite end to the protests than with offering relief on the public health front, a crisis that is, in large measure, the result of the massive presence of Russian “travelers” in Cuba.

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19 hours ago, Cigar Surgeon said:

@Nino rumors of more military leader deaths, this time Gilberto Antonio Cardero Sánchez.

image.png.8d2a166fb3284d7fe73e2fd3bad5264f.png

The 6 were all Generals. None have had a cause of death determined. John

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Latest from the streets of Havana:

good morning my dear friend ... today we woke up with the news that the government will give away a module of food per household !!!
I explain that this would be the first time since many times previous countries such as the USA, Russia, Mexico, Colombia, countries of the European Union have sent food as aid and donations and the Cuban government sells it to the population in an act of impudence total....
Since the July 11 demonstrations, the government has done more things for and for the well-being of the people than in 62 years ... !!!

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A long and very detailed essay on the protests of July 11-th and the root causes - worth reading.

https://inthesetimes.com/article/cuban-revolution-protest-july-united-states

Why Cubans Protested on July 11

Is this the beginning of the end of fear in Cuba?

Samuel Farber July 27, 2021

cuba_img_joel_01c8ac7cc3b849e525e370bc51

Government police arrest a demonstrator in Havana on July 12, one of the hundreds of mostly young people who have been arrested since July 11 and are in jail awaiting sentencing. YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images

Samuel Farber was born and raised in Cuba. A retired professor at CUNY, he has written numerous books and articles about that country. His last book is The Politics of Che Guevara: Theory and Practice published by Haymarket Books.

The street demonstrations that broke out all over Cuba on July 11 are an unprecedented event in the more than 60 years since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. But why now? This essay explores the historic, economic and political factors that help to clarify the causes of Cuba’s July 11, considers the role of the United States, and briefly reflects on Cuba’s future.

On Sunday, July 11, Cuba erupted in street protests. Unlike the major street protest that took place in 1994 and was limited to the Malecón, the long multi-lane Havana road facing the Gulf of Mexico, the July 11 outbreak of protest was national in scope. There were protests in many towns and cities, including Santiago de Cuba in the east, Trinidad in the center of the island, as well as Havana in the west. The growing access to social media in the island played an important role in the rapid spread of the protests; no wonder the government immediately suspended access to certain social media sites and brought all telephone calls from abroad to a halt. 

The street presence and participation of Black women and men was notable everywhere. This should not be surprising since Black Cubans are far less likely to receive hard currency remittances from abroad even though over 50% of the population receive some degree of financial support through that channel. These remittances have become the key to survival in Cuba, particularly in light of the ever-diminishing number of goods available in the peso-denominated subsidized ration book. Cuban Blacks have also been the victims of institutional racism in the growing tourist industry where front line” visible jobs are mostly reserved for conventionally attractive white and light skinned women and men. 

The demonstrators did not endorse or support any political program or ideology, aside from the general demand for political freedom. The official Cuban press claims that the demonstrations were organized from abroad by right-wing Cubans. But none of the demands associated with the Cuban right-wing were echoed by the demonstrators, like the support for Trump often heard in South Florida and among some dissident circles in Cuba. And no one called for humanitarian intervention” espoused by Plattistas (Platt Amendment, approved by Congress in 1901and abolished in 1934, gave the United States the right to militarily intervene in Cuba), such as biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, himself a victim of government repression for his independent ecological activism. The demonstrators did speak about the scarcity of food, medicine and essential consumer items, repudiated President Díaz-Canel as singao—a phrase that in Cuba translates as fucked” but means a wicked, evil person, and chanted patria y vida (fatherland and life). Patria y Vida” is the title of a very popular and highly polished rap song by a group of Cuban Black rappers (available on YouTube.) I have seen and heard the song more than a dozen times to enjoy it as well as to search for its explicit and implied meanings including in its silences and ambiguities.

Patria y Vida” counterposes itself to the old Cuban government slogan of Patria o Muerte” (“Fatherland or Death”). While that slogan may have made sense in the 1960s when Cuba was faced with actual invasions, it borders on the obscene when voiced by second generation bureaucrats. It is certainly high time that the regime’s macho cult of violence and death be challenged, and this song does it very well.

But what does it mean to implicitly repudiate the year 1959, the first year of the successful revolution, as the song does? There was no Soviet style system in Cuba at the time and the year 1959 is not equivalent to the Castro brothers. Many people of a wide variety of political beliefs fought and died to bring about the revolution that overthrew the Batista dictatorship. The song does express many important democratic sentiments against the present Cuban dictatorship, but it is unfortunately silent about the desirable alternative, which leaves room for the worst right-wing, pro-Trump elements in South Florida to rally behind it as if it was theirs. 

True to form, President Díaz-Canel called on the revolutionaries” to be ready for combat and go out and reclaim the streets away from the demonstrators. In fact, it was the uniformed police, Seguridad del Estado (the secret police), and Boinas Negras (black berets, the special forces) that responded with tear gas, beatings and hundreds of arrests, including several leftist critics of the government. According to a July 21 Reuters report, the authorities had confirmed that they had started the trials of the demonstrators accused of a variety of charges, but denied it according to another press report on July 25. These are summary trials without the benefit of defense counsel, a format generally used for minor violations in Cuba but which in this case involves the possibility of years in prison for those found guilty. 

Most of the demonstrations were angry but usually peaceful and only in a few instances did the demonstrators behave violently, as in the case of some looting and a police car that was overturned. This was in clear contrast with the violence frequently displayed by the forces of order. It is worth noting that in calling his followers to take to the streets to combat the demonstrators, Díaz-Canel invoked the more than 60-year-old notion that the streets belong to the revolutionaries.” Just as the government has always proclaimed that the universities belong to the revolutionaries” in order to expel students and professors that don’t toe the government’s line. One example is René Fidel González García, a law professor expelled from the University of Oriente. He is a strong critic of government policies, who, far from giving up on his revolutionary ideals, has reaffirmed them on numerous occasions.

But Why Now?

Cuba is in the middle of the most serious economic crisis since the 1990s, when, as a result of the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Cubans suffered innumerable and lengthy blackouts due to the severe shortage of oil, along with endemic malnutrition with its accompanying health problems.

The present economic crisis is due to the pandemic-related decline of tourism, combined with the government’s long term capital disinvestment and inability to maintain production, even at the lower levels of the last five years. Cuba’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) fell by 11% in 2020 and only rose by 0.5% in 2019, the year before the pandemic broke out. The annual sugar crop that ended this spring did not even reach 1 million tons, which is below the 1.4 million average of recent years and very far below the 8 million tons in 1989. The recent government attempt to unify the various currencies circulating in Cuba — primarily the CUC, a proxy for the dollar, and the peso — has backfired resulting in serious inflation that was predicted among others by the prominent Cuban economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago. While the CUC is indeed disappearing, the Cuban economy has been virtually dollarized with the constant decline of the value of the peso. While the official exchange rate is 24 pesos to the dollar, the prevailing black market rate is 60 pesos to the dollar, and it is going to get worse due to the lack of tourist dollars. This turn to an ever more expensive dollar, may be somewhat restrained in light of the government’s recent shift to the euro as its preferred hard currency. 

Worst of all, is the generalized shortage of food, even for those who have divisas, the generic term for hard currencies. The agricultural reforms of the last years aimed at increasing domestic production have not worked because they are inadequate and insufficient, making it impossible for the private farmers and for the usufructuarios (farmers who lease land from the government for 20 year terms renewable for another 20 years) to feed the country. Thus, for example, the government arbitrarily gives bank credits to the farmers for some things but not for others, like for clearing the marabú, an invasive weed that is costly to remove, but an essential task if crops are to grow. Acopio, the state agency in charge of collecting the substantial proportion of the crop that farmers have to sell to the state at prices fixed by the government is notoriously inefficient and wasteful, because the Acopio trucks do not arrive in time to collect their share, or because of the systemic indifference and carelessness that pervade the processes of shipping and storage. This creates huge spoilage and waste that have reduced the quality and quantity of goods available to consumers. It is for reasons such as these that Cuba imports 70% of the food it consumes from various countries including the United States (an exemption to the blockade was carved out in 2001 for the unlimited export of food and medicines to Cuba but with the serious limitation that Cuba has to pay in cash before the goods are shipped to the island.)

The Cuban economist Pedro Monreal has called attention to the overwhelming millions of pesos that the government has dedicated to the construction of tourist hotels (mostly in joint ventures with foreign capital) that even before the pandemic were filled to well below their capacity, while agriculture is starved of government investments. This unilateral choice of priorities by the one-party state is an example of what results from profoundly undemocratic practices. This is not a flaw” of the Cuban system any more than the relentless pursuit of profit is a flaw” of American capitalism. Both bureaucracy and the absence of democracy in Cuba and the relentless pursuit of profit in the United States are not defects of but constitutive elements of both systems.

Similarly, oil has become increasingly scarce as Venezuelan oil shipments in exchange for Cuban medical services have declined. There is no doubt that Trump’s strengthening of the criminal blockade, which went beyond merely reversing Obama’s liberalization during his second period in the White House, has also gravely hurt the island, among other reasons because it has made it more difficult for the Cuban government to use banks abroad, whether American or not, to finance its operations. This is because the U.S. government will punish enterprises who do business with Cuba by blocking them from doing business with the United States. Until the events of July 11,the Biden administration had left almost all of Trump’s sanctions untouched. Since then, it has promised to allow for larger remittances and to provide staff for the American consulate in Havana. 

While the criminal blockade has been very real and seriously damaging, it has been relatively less important in creating economic havoc than what lies at the very heart of the Cuban economic system: the bureaucratic, inefficient and irrational control and management of the economy by the Cuban government. It is the Cuban government and its left” allies in the Global North, not the Cuban people, who continue, as they have for decades, to blame only the blockade. 

At the same time, the working class in the urban and rural areas have neither economic incentives nor political incentives in the form of democratic control of their workplaces and society to invest themselves in their work, thus reducing the quantity and quality of production. 

Health Situation in Cuba 

After the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in the early spring of 2020, Cuba did relatively well during the first year of the pandemic in comparison with other countries in the region. But in the last few months the situation in Cuba, for what are still unclear reasons except for the entry of the Delta variant in the island, made a sharp turn for the worse, and in doing so seriously aggravated the economic and political problems of the country. Thus, as Jessica Domínguez Delgado noted in the Cuban blog El Toque (July 13), until April 12, a little more than a year after the beginning of the pandemic, 467 persons had died among the 87,385 cases that had been diagnosticated as having Covid-19. But only three months later, on July 12, the number of the deceased had reached 1,579 with 224, 914 diagnosed cases (2.5 times as many as in the much longer previous period).

The province of Matanzas and its capital city of the same name located 100 kilometers east of Havana became the epicenter of the pandemic’s sudden expansion in Cuba. According to the provincial governor, Matanzas province was 3,000 beds short of the number of patients that needed them. On July 6, a personal friend who lives in the city of Matanzas wrote to me about the dire health situation in the city with a lack of doctors, tests, and oxygen in the midst of collapsing hospitals. My friend wrote that the national government had shown itself incapable of controlling the situation until that very day when it finally formulated a plan of action for the city. The government did finally take a number of measures including sending a substantial number of additional medical personnel, although it is too early to tell at the time of this writing with what results.

Cuban scientists and research institutions deserve a lot of credit for the development of several anti-Covid vaccines. However, the government was responsible for the excessive and unnecessary delay in immunizing people on the island, made worse by its decision to neither procure donations of vaccines from abroad nor join the 190-nation strong COVAX (Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access) sponsored by several international organizations including the World Health Organization (WHO), an organization with which the Cuban government has good relations. Currently only 16% of the population has been fully vaccinated and 30% has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The medical crisis in the province and capital city of Matanzas fits into a more general pattern of medical scarcity and abandonment as the Cuban government has accelerated its export of medical personnel abroad to strengthen what has been for some time its number one export. This is why the valuable family doctor program introduced in the 1980s has seriously deteriorated. While the Cuban government uses a sliding scale (including some pro bono work) in what it charges its foreign government clients, Cuban doctors get an average of 10 – 25% of what the foreign clients pay the Cuban government. Needless to add, Cuban medical personnel cannot organize independent unions to bargain with the government about the terms of their employment. Nevertheless, going abroad is a desired assignment for most Cuban doctors because they earn a significant amount of hard currency and can purchase foreign goods. However, if they fail to return to Cuba after their assignments are over, they are administratively (i.e., not judicially) punished with a forced exile of 8 years duration. 

The Political Context 

Earlier this year, the leadership old guard, who fought the Batista regime and are in their late eighties and early nineties, retired from their government positions to give way to the new leadership of Miguel Díaz-Canel (born in 1960) as president and Manuel Marrero Cruz (born in 1963) as prime minister. This new leadership is continuing Raúl Castro’s policy of economic and social liberalization without democratization. For example, in 2013 the government liberalized the regulations that controlled the movement of people to make it easier for most Cubans to travel abroad. However, at the same time, the government made it virtually impossible for many dissidents to leave the country, by for example delaying their departure so they could not make it on time to conferences held abroad, and by creating a list of some 200 regulados” (people subject to regulatory rules) that are not allowed to leave the country at all. It is important to point out that as in the case of other measures adopted by the Cuban government mentioned earlier, these actions continue the policies of Fidel and Raúl Castro, in which political and administrative decisions are made outside of the regime’s own judicial system. The same applies to the hundreds of relatively brief detentions that the government of Raúl Castro carried out every year, especially to try to impede public demonstrations not controlled by the government (a police method that only works for previously planned political protests, unlike the ones that took place on July 11). 

The One-Party State

The one-party state continues to function as under Fidel and Raúl Castro’s rule. In reality, however, the Cuban Communist Party (PCC, its Spanish acronym) is not really a party — that would imply the existence of other parties. Neither is the PCC primarily an electoral party although it does firmly control from the top the periodic so-called elections that always result in the unanimous approval of the political course followed by the authorities.

Sometimes people disillusioned with the existing corrupt parties in Latin America and even in the United States itself, react with indifference if not approval to the Cuban one-party state because they perceive elections as reinforcing corrupt systems. Thus such people think that is better to have one honest political party that works than a corrupt multi-party system that doesn’t work. The problem with this type of thinking is that one-party bureaucratic systems do not work well at all, except perhaps to thoroughly repress any opposition. Moreover, corruption sooner or later works its way into the single party system as history has repeatedly shown. In the case of Cuba, Fidel Castro himself warned in a famous speech on November 17, 2005, that the revolution was in greater danger to perish because of endemic corruption than because of the actions of counterrevolutionaries.

The organizational monopoly of the PCC — explicitly sanctioned by the Cuban constitution — affects far more than elections. It extends its power in a highly authoritarian manner to control Cuban society through the so-called mass organizations that function as transmission belts for the decisions taken by the PCC’s Political Bureau. For example, the CTC, the official trade union, is the transmission belt that allows the Cuban state to maintain its monopoly of the organization of Cuban workers. Beyond enforcing the prohibition of strikes, the CTC is not an organization for the defense of working class interests as determined by the workers themselves. Rather, it was established to advance what the ruling PCC leadership determines are the workers’ best interests.

The same control mechanisms apply to other mass organizations” such as the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) and to other institutions such as editorial houses, universities and the rest of the educational system. The mass media (radio, television and newspapers) continue to be under the control of the government, guided in their coverage by the orientations” of the Ideological Department of the Central Committee of the PCC. There are however, two important exceptions to the state’s control of media organs: one, is the internal publications of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, the Cuban Catholic hierarchy is extremely cautious, and the circulation of its publications is in any case limited to its parishes and other Catholic institutions. A far more important exception is the Internet, which the government has yet been unable to place under its absolute control and remains as the principal vehicle for critical and dissident voices. It was precisely this less than full control of the Internet that made the nationwide politically explosive outbreaks of July 11 possible. 

Where is Cuba Going?

Without the benefit of Fidel Castro’s presence and the degree of legitimacy retained by the historic leadership, Díaz-Canel and the other new government leaders were politically hit hard by the events of July 11, even though they received the shameful support of most of the broad international Left. The fact that people no longer seem to be afraid may be the single largest threat for the government emerging from the events on July 11. In spite of that blow, the new leadership is on course to continue Raúl Castro’s orientation to develop a Cuban version of the Sino-Vietnamese model, which combine a high degree of political authoritarianism with concessions to private and especially foreign capital.

At the same time, the Cuban government leaders will continue to follow inconsistent and even contradictory economic reform policies for fear of losing control to Cuban private capital. The government recently authorized the creation of private PYMES (small and medium private enterprises), but it would not be at all surprising if many of the newly created PYMES end up in the hands of important state functionaries turned private capitalists. There is an important government stratum composed of business managers and technicians with ample experience in such sectors as tourism, particularly in the military. The most important among them is the 61-year-old Gen. Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, a former son-in-law of Raúl Castro, who is the director of GAESA, the huge military business conglomerate, which includes Gaviota, the principal tourist enterprise in the island. It is significant that he recently became a member of the Political Bureau of the PCC. 

Perhaps this younger generation of business military and civilian bureaucrats may try to overcome the rentier mentality that 30 years of ample Soviet assistance created among the Cuban leadership as witnessed the failure to modernize and diversify the sugar industry (as Brazil did) during those relatively prosperous years that ended in 1990. To be sure, the U.S. economic blockade contributed to the rentier mentality by encouraging a day-to-day economic survival attitude rather than of increasing the productivity of the Cuban economy to allow for a more prosperous future. 

Finally, what about the United States? Biden is unlikely to do much in his first term to change the United States’ imperialist policies towards Cuba that were significantly aggravated by Trump. Whether a possible second Democratic administration in Washington beginning in 2025 will do anything different remains an open question.

There is, however, a paradox underlying the U.S. government’s Cuba policy. While U.S. policy is not at present primarily driven by ruling class interests but, rather, by electoral considerations, particularly in the highly contested state of Florida, it is not for that reason necessarily less harsh or, what is more alarming, less durable. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, probably the most politically active business institution in the United States has advocated the resumption of normal business relations with Cuba for many years. Thomas J. Donohue, its long-time director who retired earlier this year, visited Cuba in numerous occasions and met with government leaders there. Big agribusiness concerns are also interested in doing business with Cuba as are agricultural and other business interests in the South, Southwest and Mountain States represented by both Republican and Democratic politicians. However, it is doubtful that they are inclined to expend a lot of political capital in achieving that goal.

This places a heavy extra burden on the U.S. Left to overcome the deadlock, which clearly favors the indefinite continuation of the blockade, through a new type of campaign that both zeroes in on the grave aggression and injustice committed against the Cuban people without at the same time becoming apologists for the political leadership of the Cuban state. 

Be that as it may, people on the Left in the United States have two key tasks. First, they should firmly oppose the criminal economic blockade of Cuba. Second, they should support the democratic rights of the Cuban people rather than an ossified police state, in the same way that they have supported the struggle for human rights, democracy, and radical social and economic change in Colombia and Chile in Latin America as well as Myanmar and Hong Kong in Asia.

 

 

 

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15 hours ago, JohnnyO said:

The 6 were all Generals. None have had a cause of death determined. John

Though I might add the traditional method in Cuba for burials is in a casket/wooden case for locals. After two years the body is exumed by family memebers and put in a smaller wooden box and reburied. Now for the commandantes they have a special burial ground just for them, even if in their last days they were convicted of crimes they are buried there. Never a cremation, which from what I understand all 6 were treated this way. John

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