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)