A Man of Reason? With all the strong arguments from all sides about the embargo, travel to Cuba, and what to do, if anything, about Cuba's situation, this man's continual position, over many years, in spite of considerable diversity, is enlightening. 


Cuba Continues Plan to Eliminate Dual Peso System

Cuba's state newspaper, Granma, has reported the plans continue towards eliminating the two types of pesos.


Cuba Eases Rules on Buying New Cars

Cubans have been permitted to buy and sell used cars since 2011, but the ability to buy and sell new cars was tightly restricted.  Granma, the government newspaper that reports changes in laws and regulations, has announced the opening of the ability to buy and sell new cars.


"We Shall Return", Starring Cesar Romero, Filmed in Daytona

We Shall Return is a very melodramatic, 1963, black and white, B movie, but if you are interested in Cuba, what happened in the early years of the revolution, Cubans fleeing, Cubans returning to fight, and Daytona Beach, Florida, it contains all of it.  Cuban intrigue, post Batista / early Castro.  The Cuban military look just like the Barbudos, or like Castro himself. Cesar Romero, his son, and the son’s girlfriend escape Cuba on nice cabin cruiser, while being shot at by bearded soldiers dressed like Fidel, and arrive in Miami.

They are looking for another son of Cesar, who is on a different political side, and are told he’s in Daytona Beach. The refugees board a Greyhound Bus to Daytona Beach.

They say they do not want the charity to which they are entitled, and want to work.  But it’s not easy finding work in Daytona.  The girl is offered a job in a strip club, which she accepts, until her future father in law has a fit.  Cesar Romero. enters a diner, asks for a glass of water, and doesn’t want to buy anything.  The man working in the diner says, “Ever since that revolution down there, every spic and his brother thinks they can come in here …”  Ugh.  Embarrassing that that would be how Daytona is portrayed.

Since Cesar can’t find work, Nina takes the job.  She buys food and goes home.  Cesar scolds her and tells her never gain. She meets a young hustler, who sends her to another place to work, as a scantily clad cigarette girl at a bath and tennis club. (that is the only part that seems to be filmed elsewhere, in St. Augustine.

Listening to Cuba radio, the girl learns her brother has just been executed as a traitor. The film also shows the problems that arose when Cubans thought they should follow Fidel to escape the tyranny of Batista, only to later become disillusioned. It reflects how people followed one or the other and then suffered, or changed their minds.

Political disagreement regarding Cuba, is a main thrust.

You’ll see the City Island docks, the Beach Street firehouse, the Yacht Club, the old City Island Library, Seabreeze Blvd. the boardwalk, the clock tower, an actual phone booth near the clock tower, if you’ve ever seen a phone booth, the pier, cars driving on the beach, etc.  At the end, you’ll see everything around the lighthouse, the dunes at the inlet and even that old abandoned building made of some brick-like material that was on the point at the inlet.  Recognizing the Daytona landmarks is entertaining.

Here is the IMDB information about the movie. You can perhaps find it there. 

We Shall Return is a 1963 American drama film directed by Philip S. Goodman, starring Cesar Romero and Anthony Ray. It follows the flight of and eventual return of Cuban refugees following the Cuban Revolution of 1959. It features a fictitious plan to overthrow Fidel Castro, which proves successful, allowing the emigres to go home. Shot predominantly on location in Florida, the film would have its world premiere there as well, on February 15, 1963.[1][2]
Directed by
Written by
Distributed by
Release dates
February 15, 1963
United States

Instead, I found it through the I Grew Up In Daytona Beach Facebook Page, which has a link to a UTube video.  Warning, th
ere’s a very silly introduction to the UTube video, but once you get past it. The whole movie is there. 

Alan Gross Petitions Obama to Get Him Freed

"Why am I still here? With the utmost respect, Mr. President, I fear that my government – the very government I was serving when I began this nightmare – has abandoned me,” Alan Gross wrote in a letter to Obama."

Interesting text, considering that Gross and the U.S. have both told Cuba Gross was not on official business for the U.S.  

Alan Gross has been in jail for a considerable time, for taking "communication devices"  in for Cuba's jewish citizens.  He reported them on his customs form, and reported that he was taking them in.

From the below article:

"Gross’ letter was read aloud by his wife at a vigil in Lafayette Square across from the White House on Tuesday to mark his fourth anniversary in jail. on December 9.
“It is clear to me, Mr. President, that only with your personal involvement can my release be secured,” Gross wrote.
"Gross said he was in Cuba to set up communications equipment to give unrestricted Internet access to Jewish groups. A Cuban judge said that activity was a crime against the state and sentenced Gross to 15 years."
"Tuesday’s vigil follows a letter sent by a bipartisan group of 66 senators last month that urged the president “to act expeditiously to take whatever steps are in the national interest to obtain his release.”
"A separate letter signed by 14 senators, including two of Cuban descent, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Marco Rubio of Florida, took a tougher line rejecting any negotiations, calling on Obama to work toward securing Gross’s unconditional release.


A Review of Cubans - Voices of Change by Lynn Geldof

This is an important book, which provides actual interviews and descriptions from their own words, of a number of Cubans, of all walks of life, political persuasions, and beliefs. 

This book is in our local Volusia County Library, and also available as new and used from Amazon.

A Goodreads Review of Cuba, the Making of a Revolution by Ramon Eduardo Ruiz

The following review has been posted in Goodreads:

"Hmm. Well the author does provide some insight i have not seen before. But the bottom line seems to be that it's all our fault. It's the U.S.'s intrusion on others' affairs, contradicting the strong Cuban nationalism, that was the impetus. While I do believe the U.S. intrudes, I don't know that it is such a major factor in what occurred in Cuba. There were numerous leaders, some, but not all promoted by the U.S., who led the people to be discontented and welcoming of a revolution. Whoops. This is supposed to be a review of the book, not the theory. 

This author, Ramon Eduardo Ruiz is well known and well respected as an authority on Cuban history, so I will accept his thesis, and say the book is interesting."


A Goodreads Review of the Book, Cuba Betrayed, by Fulgencio Batista

I gave it four stars, not because I believe it is true, but because if one is interested in Cuba, one should read all sides.

Cuba Betrayed is the ultimate work of propaganda. Fulgencio Batista explaining what happened in his terms as dictator, and afterwards, from his point of view. If you read it with an open mind, and also read other accounts, by Fidel Castro (which of course is also propaganda) and third party books, the differences and similarities of various authors’ view of all that occurred is interesting. 

It starts with an interesting dedication, which itself casts blame for Cuba’s condition on everybody other than Batista, and even refers to his betrayers as Judas.

The book covers his “Democratic Plans,” Castro’s attack on the Moncada, Propaganda (by others), the various presidents and leaders, “A Terrorist Plan,” “Crimes and Revolts,” Increase of Violence and Victims,” etc. Then it contains a number of historical reviews and Interviews and statements. 

Naturally, the book is a “poor me” analysis of why he was good, and how he and the people were betrayed by successors. Yet, it is historically accurate in many senses, provides details of prior presidencies, attacks, etc., and even accurately describes the feeling of the people of Cuba after they voted for Fidel Castro, and then, for the most part, believe they had made a mistake. 

The full table of contents, dedication, etc. appears here.


NBC News Article - Cuba travel threatened by US bank dilemma

Mary Murray of NBC News writes that, “United States diplomatic officials are helping their Cuban counterparts resolve a banking snafu that has forced the suspension of consular services, impacting travel to the island nation. Cuba suspended all its consular services out of Washington until further notice late Tuesday, and is no longer issuing passports or visas, saying no U.S. bank would handle its business.”

[The below photo (from the article) is of the U.S. Interest Section in Havana. Because there are no official relations between the two countries, instead of having embassies or consulates, they have these interest sections, to issue visas, etc.  Some years ago, the Cuban government put these flag poles and other architecture to obscure the building and prevent the U.S. from promoting its point of view, which the U.S. has readily admitted it does.]

The editors of this blog have spoken to people who received entry permits and visas for family travel to Cuba this week, and they indicate they were issued rather quickly. But their travel agent instructed them to deliver payment to the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, D.C. via money orders issued by the United States Postal Service or Western Union only. 

Apparently the Cuban Interests Section was using Buffalo, NY-based M&T Bank, but it declined to offer further banking services.  It is believed that this move by the bank is not intended to be a political statement, and is merely a business decision. Nevertheless, the Cuban government is apparently taking action by limiting the number of visas it issues.

The  article further states that the U.S. “State Department said it was ‘actively working’ with the Cuban Interests Section to find a new bank. The U.S. government seeks to help foreign missions in the United States that have trouble obtaining banking services, while ensuring the continued security of the U.S. financial system including through appropriate regulatory oversight,” the department said in a briefing. "We would like to see the Cuban missions return to full operations.”

Considering that the U.S. permits citizens to travel to Cuba for family visits, or for cultural, “People to People” exchanges, or for religious missionary reasons, or a number of other reasons, it truly would make no sense for the U.S. government to shut the back door by causing banks not to do business with the Cuban Interest Section. So we certainly hope that is not the case.

Cuba builds communism-free zone to woo capitalist businesses

NBC News has posted a Global Post Article, with the above title:


The following are edited quotes from the Article. 

“President Raul Castro’s government is building its own version of a Chinese-style economic zone on the banks of the Mariel Bay, 30 miles west of Havana, ….”

Within “a 180 square-mile special economic zone, Cuban planners have envisioned a global capitalist enclave where foreign companies can install manufacturing plants, research centers and operational hubs.”

“The zone would lure foreign businesses with the guarantee of a 10-year tax holiday and virtually unfettered freedom to import raw materials and repatriate profits. The Cuban government began accepting bids from international investors this month.”

The government supposedly will guaranty “that property within the special zone cannot be expropriated -- a necessary assurance on an island where billions worth of foreign assets were nationalized after Fidel Castro’s 1959 Revolution.
Cuban trade officials say investors from Russia, China, Vietnam, Germany, Spain, Japan, Mexico and Brazil have expressed interest.”

Skeptics “doubt international investors will choose to put their money on the island when they could go to another country like the Dominican Republic, which has lower labor costs and an established track record for manufacturing. The Mariel project’s promoters say it will be the Caribbean’s biggest shipping port once completed, but other cities in the region are likely to catch up.”

“Another big disincentive: the long-standing US trade sanctions, which ban Cuban imports and prohibit ships that stop on the island from calling at US ports for six months.”

“Cuba is offering investors 50-year contracts and 100 percent ownership of their businesses, duty-free imports and virtually zero taxes for the first decade of operation.
Raul Castro’s government has cast the Mariel project primarily as a job-creation program. It’s looking to slash the number of Cuban workers employed by the state, and the island’s economy desperately needs new sources of employment, not to mention technology and training. Still, doubts linger about the types of industries that would see Cuba as an attractive site for export-driven manufacturing, since the island’s labor force has little experience with modern assembly plants or advanced technology.”

“[C]ompanies may be discouraged by Cuban laws that prohibit them from hiring workers directly, making them go through a government agency instead.”

Another Shirley Lykes Passenger Receives Copies of Photos and Videos of the Trip

I happen to have videos and photos of the Shirley Lykes, one of the Lykes Company ships, which brought Cuban Refugees to Port Everglades in January of 1963. Since I first posted them about two years ago, I have been contacted by three people, who were young kids on that trip, and I was able to share the video and photos with them.  Last year, we had a dinner at our house, and introduced the First Mate from the ship, and one of the people on the ship, who was a young child at the time.  I posted photos of the First Mate and the woman who was on the ship after that dinner. Today, I met the third person who had contacted me.  He was two years old on the trip, and wanted to see if he could find his family on the photos and videos, so I delivered them to him.

The ship took medicine and other items as ransom for Bay of Pigs prisoners, their families and other refugees who were allowed to leave.

In the past, I posted an official newsreel video of the trip, and I am putting that link here:

Here are newspaper links:

This is one of the many items I published about this on Cubalibretoday in the past.

What Obama really said to the Cuban Dissidents in Miami - Time for a Change

The Huffington Post today analyzed what Obama really said to the Cuban Dissidents in Miami, and promotes significant change in how the U.S. acts with Cuba.  I am quoting the majority of this well-stated and thought-provoking article.  

The article called, President Obama: In Search of a Creative Policy Towards Cuba, says,

“… calling attention to the photos obscures the substance of the president's remarks, the central theme of which was a respectful questioning of the isolation policy as anachronistic. The president proposed bringing rationality to U.S.-Cuba policy. This would unavoidably leave behind unnecessary hostility, befitting the post-Cold War era and an emerging Cuba where major changes are recognized. The repetition of some expected interventionist platitudes, rather than confirming the president's support for the embargo, seems destined to provide political coverage for some policy changes in the near future.”
“… President Obama called for a "creative" analysis of U.S. strategy, thus inviting U.S. foreign policy apparatus to question the value of the current policy toward Cuba, which has been declared anachronistic by the president himself….”
“A rational policy cannot emerge from a distorted image. Cuba is a country in transition, where economic reform and political liberalization is occurring. Maintaining a sanctions policy based on the false premise that the island is a terrorist threat, isolated in the hemisphere, not only diminishes the credibility of the U.S., but hinders the development of a policy tailored to the challenges and opportunities created by reforms that have taken place since Fidel Castro's retirement.”
“One problem for U.S. policy is that several of the complaints about the Cuban system are becoming outdated. Since Cuba reformed its travel policies in October 2012, it has been easier for Cubans to travel to the U.S. than for U.S. residents to travel to Cuba. The more Cuba transitions to a mixed economy the more the narrative that paints Cuba as a remnant of the Cold War is removed from reality. A dominant state sector remains, but the private and cooperative sectors are growing. Unlike during the 90s when the government insisted on preserving a command economy, the new non-state sector is part of an integrated development strategy. Religious freedoms have also expanded.”
With the emergence of autonomous civil society and a significant market-oriented sector in Cuba, the U.S. insistence that the embargo is against the Castro government, not the people, becomes contradictory. The strategy of economic asphyxiation does not differentiate between the state and non-state sectors. Why don't we discuss measures for allowing U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba if they utilize private lodging, and for giving private entrepreneurs access to the U.S. market? … It is clear that the embargo is out of step with U.S. values and runs counter to peaceful and orderly changes on the island.”
“The embargo is disconnected from the hemispheric and global balance of power. For two decades, this U.S. policy has been overwhelmingly condemned in the United Nations. Russia, China and Brazil have shown satisfaction with the modernization of Cuba's Mariel port and its conversion into a special economic zone, which is similar to steps taken in Vietnam and China. Mexico has just negotiated favorable terms for Cuba's debt, clearing the way for greater involvement in the economic opening of the island. All of Latin America has announced that it will not attend the 2015 Summit of the Americas without Cuba, and that the U.S. embargo will be a subject of contention.”
“If President Obama wants to get "creative", article 2 of the U.S. Constitution confers upon him broad powers to do so. Despite all the undue Congressional meddling authorized by the Helms-Burton Law, the executive branch has the ability to adopt an attitude of pragmatic compromise, negotiation, and exchange with Cuba. Besides removing Cuba from the State Department's list of terrorist sponsoring nations, the president can issue a general license for non-tourist travel to Cuba and adopt measures that stimulate ongoing reforms. The president can also discuss George Bush's USAID's responsibility for the design of interventionist and provocative programs that led to Cuba's imprisonment of Alan Gross, an American subcontractor. The State Department can negotiate a reasonable solution to this problem and bring Mr. Gross back to Maryland, with his family and Jewish congregation.”
“A "creative" and updated U.S. policy toward Cuba is long overdue. Given the potential benefits to both countries, it's worth a try.”

Hijacker Potts Returns to U.S. from Cuba

William Potts, an American member of the Black Panther movement hijacked a plane in the U.S. in 1984 and forced it to take him to Cuba, where he thought the Cuban government would give him guerrilla training. Instead, Cuba jailed him for 13 years for piracy. When he was released from prison, he remained in Havana but always wanted to return to the US.

Potts has now returned to the U.S. He cleared his return with the U.S. Interest Section in Havana, but he expected to be arrested on landing, which he was.  The Associated Press quoted him as saying, "I'm ready for whatever. My position is, of course, I did the crime and I did the time, and the United States has to recognize that." 
Photo from the following BBC article.


Cuba Cracks Down on Private Cinemas, Game Salons

The Associated Press and other media have quoted the Communist Party newspaper Granma, which says Cuban authorities are shutting down privately run cinemas and video game salons, which have become very popular recently, saying Saturday that the businesses are unauthorized. These businesses have been operating in a legal gray area often under licenses for independent restaurants, offering basic food and refreshments. This type of activity is not specifically authorized as an enterprise under limited economic changes begun by Raul Castro.
"Private theaters have become increasingly popular as an alternative to poorly maintained state-run cinemas, which tend to show more staid, high-brow fare, and moviegoers were also dismayed at the news." (Associated Press)
"Recently the Communist Party youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde published a lengthy article quoting Vice Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas as saying the video salons promote "frivolity, mediocrity, pseudo culture and banality," raising fears of a crackdown." (Associated Press)

Number of Cubans in Mexico Increases

News agencies have reported that the number of Cubans arriving in Mexico, both legally and illegally, with the intent to continue migration to the United States has increased since the first of the year.

The Miami Herald posted an article, “Mexico Detains Growing Number of Cubans,” in which it addressed Mexico’s problems with an increased number of Cubans.  Then, Latino Fox News, with cooperation by the Associated Press, in, “Soaring Number Of Cubans Are Entering The United States Through Mexican Border” addressed the same issue from the United States perspective.

The Miami Herald article starts off with this statement:The number of undocumented Cubans intercepted in Mexico on their way to the U.S. border has more than doubled in the eight months since Havana eased its migration controls, according to Mexican government figures.”
“Interdictions in Mexico of undocumented Cubans totaled 2,300 from January to August of this year, compared to 994 in the same period in 2012, according to the Interior Ministry.”
An acquaintance I have who lives in Cuba told me three years ago that he and his friends were trying to obtain visas to Mexico for exactly that reason.  But I haven’t heard the governments acknowledge it prior to now.
Some blame the increase in part on Cuba’s new leniency, which now permits Cubans to travel to other countries to visit, if they can obtain a visa from the other country.  The article says, “Legal air arrivals to Mexico by Cubans with tourist or migrant visas also rose from 30,750 in the first eight months of 2012 to 33,017 in the same period this year, according to Mexican government figures.”
When the Cuban government eased restrictions on travel, as of January, 2013, those “changes eliminated the need for Cuban government exit permits, allowed more minors to travel abroad and extended from 11 to 24 months the time that Cubans can stay outside their country without losing their residency and benefits such as free healthcare.”
“Cubans who arrive in the United States can now obtain permanent U.S. residency after 366 days under the Cuban Adjustment Act and then return to the island to retain their residency there. They can then travel at will between the two countries.”
“Thousands of Cubans arrive each year via the Mexico-U.S. border because it is the easiest way of obtaining entry under Washington’s “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy. Those who set foot on U.S. territory get to stay, but most of those interdicted at sea are returned.”
However there is an agreement between Mexico and Cuba, which has not been changed, that requires the return to Cuba of any Cuban citizen found in Mexico without documentation to travel, and who remains a legal resident of Cuba.
Cubans are paying large bribes to Mexican authorities to avoid being returned.
The Latino Fox article concentrates on the intent of the Cubans in Mexico to find their way to the U.S.
It says, “The easing by the Cuban government of restrictions on traveling abroad has led to a rise in the number of Cubans who try to enter the United States through the Mexican border.”
The changes in the Cuban financial system, the new ability to buy and sell houses and cars, and the easing of travel restrictions, do not seem to have improved every day Cuban life very much. But now Cubans wanting to leave have another viable option instead of taking a dangerous raft ride to the U.S. directly.
Read more here: 

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No More Pesos Cubanos and Pesos Convertible in Cuba

It’s official. Cuba has announced the plan to eliminate the “confounding” dual-monetary system that forces Cubans to go to exchange kiosks to obtain the kind of pesos used at different retail establishments.  We reported a few weeks ago that this may be coming, and posted ideas from articles about the extreme complication that will result.

NBC news has posted the following story about this announcement.

“Cubans give muted welcome to end of 'convertible peso' dual currency system” 

Cuban government Granma newspaper has announced that the system, which has existed since 1994, when the collapse of the Soviet Union crushed the Cuban economy, is being phased out as part of reforms aimed at fixing the island’s economy.  The NBC article says, “Raul Castro has denounced the setup as a hindrance to the country's development since he took over from his brother in 2008.”

The article explains the dual system well:  “Workers are paid in domestic pesos [pesos cubanos] forcing professionals such as doctors and teachers to moonlight as cab drivers or private tutors to supplement their state salaries. Tourist pesos [pesos convertibles] are used for foreign trade, including imported electrical goods, and upscale restaurants. Neither currency is legal tender outside Cuba. Many imported goods can only be bought in CUCs, creating a social divide between ordinary Cubans and those with access to the much more valuable currency.”

You would use pesos cubanos, issued to workers, at a store like this to buy items in the ration book:

You would need pesos convertibles to buy in places like these:

The article quotes a cafeteria cashier, who said, "I do not care about if it’s the peso or whatever. What interests me is if everything improves – my financial situation, that of my people, and that there be free movement of money."

The article points out the risk of high inflation, and quotes Vicki Huddleston, a former U.S. diplomat who served as Principal Officer of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana for three years, who said, “In essence it means devaluation, affecting the value of pensions and remittances from overseas. It will be a difficult change to manage.”

Author of Book that led to "Mambo Kings", Dead at 62

Oscar Hijuelos, a Cuban-American novelist who wrote about the lives of immigrants adapting to a new culture, becoming the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his 1989 book, “The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love,” died on Saturday in Manhattan. He was 62.


Havana Requiem Awarded Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

Stanford law professor Paul Goldstein and his novel Havana Requiem have been awarded the third annual Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. The prize will be awarded at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 19, in conjunction with the National Book Festival.
The prize, named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of To Kill A Mockingbird, is sponsored by the ABA Journal and the University of Alabama Law School. It is awarded each year to the novel that best exemplifies the role of lawyers in society. Past winners include John Grisham and Michael Connelly.
The novel chronicles efforts by a lawyer, recovering alcoholic Michael Seeley, to help a group of aging Cuban jazz musicians and their families reclaim copyrights to their works. When his main client, Héctor Reynoso, goes missing, Seeley begins to realize that there is more to the story than music, and that a far deeper conspiracy is involved that might include both the Cuban secret police and his former law firm.
Goldstein, 70, who writes and lectures on intellectual property issues, is also the author of two other novels, Errors and Omissions and A Patent Lie. He said he sees a connection between his protagonist, Michael Seeley, and Harper Lee’s iconic lawyer-hero Atticus Finch.
“Apart from its many other virtues, To Kill A Mockingbird was the first novel to show me that it is possible to write about law and lawyers in a profoundly human, as well as literate, way,” Goldstein said. “More than 50 years later, it is impossible to study any of the better lawyer-heroes of today's novels without finding Atticus Finch looking back at you.”
“I like to think that Michael Seeley, the hero of Havana Requiem, embodies not only Atticus's integrity, but also his unvarnished nobility, and the Harper Lee Prize is not only a great honor for me, but evidence that perhaps I got it right.”
Judges for the contest included bestselling authors, Michael Connelly and Richard North Patterson; syndicated talk show host Katie Couric; Morris Dees, co-founder and chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Dr. Sharon Malone, physician married to Attorney General Eric Holder and sister of the University of Alabama alumna Vivian Malone Jones, one of the first two African Americans admitted and first to graduate from the University of Alabama. Havana Requiem also won our readers' choice poll, with 39.63 percent of the vote.
In addition to his teaching, Goldstein is a member of the bars of New York and California and since 1988 been of counsel to the law firm of Morrison & Foerster, where he advises clients on major intellectual property lawsuits and transactions. Since 1985 Goldstein has been the Lillick Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.
Goldstein has testified before congressional committees on intellectual property legislation, been an invited expert at international governmental meetings on copyright issues, and is a member of the editorial boards of leading intellectual property publications in England, Germany and Switzerland. He has served as visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Patent, Copyright and Competition Law in Munich, Germany, and is a member of the founding faculty of the Munich Intellectual Property Law Center.