There's an old joke, probably from Hollywood, that when someone says, "It's not about the money...", it's really about the money.
The Castro's bankrupted Cuba fifty years ago by implementing misguided nationalist, socialist and communal economic policies. It took the failure of the Soviet Union and its ending of its sponsorship of the Castros to make this obvious and to destine Cubans to live in abject poverty.
Everything that the Castros have done since that bleak day in 1994 has been geared toward keeping the doors open; maintaining the federal police as well as the urban grays - the PNR - and the secret police.
I've written before about Cuba's 6th Congress of a year and a half ago and what a distortion of the truth it was. How it was really a money grab disguised as a new economic development strategy. Going to a two currency system allowed them to grab an extra 10% of the US cash that ex-pat Cubans and tourists bring intot he country.
Now there's chatter about them allowing residents to use debit cards in the dollar stores.
No Cubans (outside of government bribe-takers) have so much legal income that they can afford to make a big show of shopping in the Benitton stores or paying full retail for cigars. And they're sure as hell smart enough to not use their debit card accounts for the cash that they earn on the side. Like everything else the Castros do, it's about them and money, not Cubans and well-being.
The Toronto Star has a number of journalists who tend toward supporting socialism, with which I have no problem, except when the socialists are also dictators that are human rights abusers.
The story makes it look like the Castros are being generous and humanitarian in offering medical training to poor students to work in poor places.
But you have to read a lot of the story before the economics are revealed.
Like everything in Cuba, the truth is a little different.
In truth, it is another example of Castro(s) trading in flesh.
They buy doctors for one price and sell them for another.
Just like fish mongers. Or other mongers.
But The Star doesn't make this the focus of the story. Which it could have.
The teachers of these "doctors" (who might be best referred to as "doctor practitioners") are paid in Cuban pesos - equivalent to about USD$30-50 / month. Each teacher has, say, about 200 students - so the "investment" is about $0.20 / month per student.
They (the Castros) "sell" the services of each of these "doctors" to other countries for about $2,000 per month and they - the Castros - keep about $800 - which is a rate of return of 4000%.
They sell people like they sell cigars and rum.
When a person writes anything, they have to have a point of view, or their work will be boring. It is said that a POV is a factor of a person's perspective. So what is mine?
Cuba is very, very confusing - almost nothing is as it seems.
While the people are about the poorest in the Americas, they do manage to survive, in a fashion. They have apparently excellent health and apparently can be well educated.
But again, it is not as it seems.
First off, the Castros lie. I write about this in Mojito!. So anything you read from there is untrue; appatchiks will always write that whatever the Great Chief or his brother say or do is terrific and any civilian that is interviewed knows that they can only tell things that reflect positively on the revolution.
The health care success is at least partly due to the paucity of money to buy drugs or even rum or for that matter food that makes us obese. Local residents have a little access to health care, but even aspirin is unavailable without a special source of cash. But it is for sale to foreigners.
Young kids only get 1/2 day of school a day and a lot of this is devoted to Young Pioneers propaganda training. A person's family or personal history decides whether they can get a post-secondary education. Children of dissidents have no chance of seeing their kids becoming more highly paid anythings. Lucky people in the right families might get the opportunity to see other parts of the world by having their services sold in USD, while they are paid in pesos plus benefits like a better place to live or a coupon to allow them to buy a car, if they can somehow come up with the money.
So, compared to many of the so called intelligentsia here in Toronto, I would be seen as an anti-Castroite, or is that anti-Castroista. I suppose I wear that badge with a degree of honour, but from a lot of knowledge.
In Mojito we introduce the idea of the RC Church intervening in Cuba. Our speculation might not be too far off...
From Andrea Spinelli
The Cuban government led by Raul Castro has officially accepted and the release of 52 political dissidents imprisoned in the spring of 2003, the "Black Spring": The announcement came during a meeting yesterday between President Castro in Havana The Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, Ambassador Miguel Angel Moratinos and Cardinal Jaime Ortega.
The Iberian ambassador, shortly before returning home, was received by Castro and the Cuban Minister, after days of negotiations were ongoing strategic Cuba-Spain-Vatican to persuade the Castro regime to operate to meet the pressing demands the international community.
According to a statement from the local Catholic Church, issued on the sidelines of the meeting, five of the dissidents will be released already in the day today, Thursday, July 8 and for the other 47 times will be about three to four months. Local authorities have stressed that the prisoners "could leave the island" to Spain. Despite the silence of the Cuban authorities, some time there had been negotiations between Madrid and Havana, Cuba mediated by the Catholic Church, for the release of political dissidents, yesterday's announcement represents another step forward after the meeting May 20 between Ortega and Castro, which led to the liberation of Ariel Sigler and transfer of prisoners to prisons closer to places of residence. It should be noted that the international community is sensitized by the hunger strike in prison, still in place, the dissident Guillermo Farinas: more than four months Farinas has chosen fasting to demand the release of 25 anti-Castro dissidents. Hospitalized in Santa Clara, almost desperate conditions, Farinas said that the strike will not stop until they will be contacted by the Cuban authorities. The reaction of domestic opponents to the regime, before the news of the release of 52 political prisoners, has been rather tepid: according to the spokesman of the Damas de Blanco, Laura Pollan, "If we are forced deportations certainly can not speak of progress on the human rights front, "he said, referring to the" possibility "for free, announced by the regime to flee to Spain. It was also underlined by the blogger Yoani Sanchez, the "liberation" is actually a "deportation" means the forced emigration, deportation, exile is standard practice to dispose of non-conformity with the procedure. "If you do not like, go away" is repeated to the Cubans, since childhood. It also complained that still do not know the names of the five detainees to be released today. The fear is that the Castro regime are being made to create a real airline ad hoc, with weekly flights, to "invite" expatriation who disagrees with the administration of Raul Castro. Spain, France and Chile planned destinations. After this amnesty will remain about a hundred dissidents in Cuban jails. But the term "dissident" is not pleasing to the scheme: "criminal" or "mercenary Yankees are certainly more popular in the definition of those who feel their conscience dictates not align with the existing Castro in the Caribbean island. And this is why, legally speaking, that prevents their complete liberation
The crackdown on independent journalists is intensifying, with three cases of journalists being jailed, arrested or summoned in the past few days. The journalist who has been jailed is Dania Virgen García
of Primavera Digital
, who was given a 20-month sentence on 23 April. Her case brings the number of journalists imprisoned in Cuba to 25.
Arrested at her home in the Havana suburb of San Miguel del Padrón on 22 April, García was tried and convicted in less than 48 hours and was taken to the women’s prison known as the “Manto Negro” (Black Veil) because of its bad reputation. The regime’s haste to “pass justice” appears to have been due to the municipal elections held on 25 April
The charges on which García, 41, was convicted have yet to be confirmed, but she supported and participated in the marches staged by the Ladies in White, a group formed by the mothers, wives and sisters of political prisoners whose activities have been suppressed by the authorities in recent days.
Independent journalist Yosvani Anzardo Hernández
was arrested at his home in San Germán, in the eastern province of Holguín, on the morning of 24 April. His family does not know why. The editor of the newspaper Candonga
, Anzardo was detained for two weeks in September 2009, when police confiscated the electronic equipment he needed to produce the newspaper. Magaly Norvis Otero Suárez
, an independent journalist who reports for the Hablemos Press
news centre and Miami-based Radio Martí
, has been given a summons to report to the National Revolutionary Police in Havana for “a conversation” on 29 April. A staunch supporter of the Ladies in White, Norvis also keeps a blog in which she writes about arbitrary arrests and human rights violations.
Finally, police used force to arrest Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, another Hablemos Press reporter, on 23 April as he was covering an event in the Havana suburb of Marianao to commemorate imprisoned dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s death. Martínez has been charged with “insulting behaviour.”
“The international community cannot continue to remain silent in the face of the suffering of Cuba’s dissidents and the lack of freedoms imposed by a regime whose hints of a possible opening stopped short at the threshold of human rights,” Reporters Without Borders said.
Independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas Hernández
is meanwhile continuing a hunger strike to press for the release of the prisoners of conscience who are in poorest health. Reporters Without Borders has urged him to call off the protest but Fariñas says he is ready to die.
With a total of 25 journalists currently detained, including Reporters Without Borders correspondent Ricardo González Alfonso
, Cuba ranks behind only Iran and China as one of the world’s biggest prisons for the media.
Photo : http://www.humanrightscuba.com/2010...
From Humberto Fortova: http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2007/6/4/141010.shtml
The cover of the current Rolling Stone magazine features mega movie star Johnny Depp hugging mega rock star Keith Richards.
In the world's top-grossing movie of the moment, these two "blood brothers," as Rolling Stone calls them, team up as father-son. Throughout the article, Depp, who moved to Hollywood as an amateur rock guitarist only to see his fortunes blossom elsewhere in the entertainment industry, gushes about the Rolling Stones, and Keith Richards in particular, as his " models, inspiration," etc. etc.
Hanging from Depp's neck during the Rolling Stone photo shoot is his famous pendant with the face of another "counter-culture" legend who serves as a wellspring of Depp inspiration: Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
A few years ago in a Vibe magazine interview, Depp proclaimed his "digging" of Che Guevara.
As a rocker-hipster fan of Che Guevara, Johnny Depp has plenty of company.
"Che Guevara has given rise to a cult of almost religious hero worship among radical intellectuals and students across much of the Western world," proclaimed Time magazine in May 1968. With his hippie hair and wispy revolutionary beard, Che is the perfect postmodern conduit to the nonconformist, seditious '60s."
"1968 actually began in 1967 with the murder of Che," recounts Christopher Hitchens. "His death meant a lot to me, and countless like me, at the time. He was a role model."
"1968 was the onset of a totally new age, with a new conception of how people should be: They should not to be governed by authorities from above." Gushed Kai Kracht, West Germany's version of Abbie Hoffman. "We studied the great revolutionaries of our century: Lenin, Mao, Che [apparently none of these governed from above!] we wanted to learn from their success. Our revolution was young, and full of groovy slogans."
Oddly, considering his profession and lifestyle, Depp's Pirates' "blood brother" Keith Richards, seems immune to (or perhaps simply oblivious of) Che-Mania. The Stones, after all, in their classic Sympathy for the Devil cast Lucifer as directing Che's mentors, models, and early suitors — the Bolsheviks: "Stood around St Petersburg when I saw it was a time for a change . . . killed the Czar and his ministers . . . Anastasia screamed in vain."
Had Johnny Depp been born two decades earlier and in Cuba and attempted the lifestyle of a U.S. teenager or campus rebel his "digging" would have been of a more literal nature. Depp would have found himself digging ditches and mass-graves in a prison camp system inspired by the man glorified on his little pendant. Had his digging lagged, a "groovy" Czech machine-gun butt might have shattered his teeth or perhaps some "groovy" Soviet bayonets slashed his buttocks.
Hugo Chavez recently monikered his regime's socio-economic model, "Mision Che Guevara." As I write, Chavez' police goon squads (some mimicking their national leader by wearing Che T-shirts, as visible on Youtube) bludgeon, tear gas, and arrest hundreds of rebellious college and high-school students.
Nothing could be more fitting.
In a famous speech in 1961, Che Guevara denounced the very "spirit of rebellion" as "reprehensible."
"Youth must refrain from ungrateful questioning of governmental mandates" commanded Guevara. "Instead, they must dedicate themselves to study, work, and military service." And woe to those youths "who stayed up late at might and thus reported to work [government forced-labor] tardily."
"Youth," wrote Guevara, "should learn to think and act as a mass." "Those who chose their own path" [as in growing long hair and listening to Yankee-imperialist Rock & Roll] were denounced as worthless "lumpen" and "delinquents." In his famous speech Che Guevara even vowed, "to make individualism disappear from Cuba! It is criminal to think of individuals!"
Tens of thousands of Cuban youths learned that Che Guevara's admonitions were more than idle bombast. In Che Guevara the hundreds of Soviet KGB and East German STASI "consultants" who flooded Cuba in the early '60s, found an extremely eager acolyte. By the mid '60s the crime of a "rocker" lifestyle or effeminate behavior got thousands of youths yanked off Cuba's streets and parks by secret police and dumped in prison camps with "Work Will Make Men Out of You" in bold letters above the gate (the one at Auchwitz read "Work Will Set You Free")and with machine gunners posted on the watchtowers.
The initials for these camps were UMAP, not GULAG, but the conditions were identical.
Today the world's largest Che Guevara image adorns Cuba's headquarters for its KGB-trained secret police. And Johnny Depp seems delighted to flaunt this emblem from his pendants, shirts, and kerchiefs.
Johnny Depp also "digs" Jack Kerouac's famous and freespirited travelogue. "'On The Road' was my bible for years," boasts Depp. Yet from his T-shirts to his pendants to his bandanas, Depp habitually flaunts the emblem of a regime that imprisons anyone who attempts travel from one Cuban province to the other without proper police-state "papers," and machine-guns anyone who tries to travel abroad.
The world's most famous Rock & Roll publication features the guitarist for the world's most famous Rock & Roll band, while Rock & Roll fan Johnny Depp proudly sports the face of a Stalinist police chief whose KGB-trained goons herded rock and roll fans into prison camps for the crime of being rock & roll fans.
"I bet you were expecting a Hollywood putz," boasted Depp to his obsequious Vibe magazine interviewer who seemed dazzled by Depp's penetrating sagacity. "Bet you expected some f**cking commodity without a brain in his head!"
Nothing of the sort, Mr Depp. Even in Hollywood, you tower as an exceptional intellectual commodity.
Humberto Fontova is the author of the newly-released "Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him."
Somehow we plumb forgot that January 1st, 2009 was different this year - it will be marking the 50th anniversary of the replacement of a capitalist despot in Cuba with one of the Marxist ilk.
With the weather as frigid it is (thanks to global warming, I guess)we needed to get somewhere warm. And when thoughts turn to warmer climes, Cuba always is on the top of the list (at least for me - Kate is still developing her taste). We were shocked at the hotel rates - upwards of $400 / night for hotels that would go for a quarter that in non peak times.
I wondered, it's too late for film and early for jazz, what's going on?
Then I sent an email to one of the agents I use (Juri the magician at Nash Travel) and was informed of my ADD.
But thankfully, it looks like we got the last rooms in the city, so we'll be seeking out the best parties and most complete mojitos.