News-June 13, 2011 

Yoani Sanchez

On June 3, 2011, In These Times published a personal account of Yoani Sanchez’s kidnapping and beating in 2009, called “A Day in the Life of a Cuban Dissident”. Thanks to author of “The Truth Lies”, Christopher Stoddard, for pointing out this article to me, because I had missed it, and Yoani didn’t mention it on her site.

Yoani is a well-known dissident blogger, who courageously has transmitted blogs from Havana for years. She and her blog have received acclaim from various sources, including Time Magazine.
She has even communicated directly with President Obama.

A blog she wrote on February 28, 2011, shows how the government silently monitors all that she does.

This was that blog:

“I run into a neighbor in the elevator, we exchange greetings, comments about the weather, questions about whether eggs have arrived at the corner shop. We are still on the sixth floor when, in the protected and momentary privacy of the cabin, she tells me that thanks to me she’s been able to watch a Colombian soap opera. I don’t understand. What relationship could there be between this skeptical blogger and the dramatic soap operas skilled in wrenching tears from people on the other side of the screen. But the woman insists. With four floors still to go before we reach the ground, I begin to think of the scripts of the old Félix B. Cañet.

The answer comes to me in the most unexpected way. As the elevator signals Floor 3, she tells me that her fear of the dark park — on one side of our building — was an obstacle to her going to a friend’s house every night to watch an episode of her soap opera, captured by an illegal satellite dish. But now, she said with gratitude, that strip of concrete and vegetation is guarded 24 hours a day. I look like I don’t understand, but she stresses that the Interior Ministry agents that surround my house have made the neighborhood safer. I would prefer to believe that those shadows I see from my balcony are the fantasies of someone who consumes too much fiction, but the woman returns to the charge. She won’t let me hide behind a smile, rather she wants to emphasize that she owes it to me that she can get to the other building safely.

I’m unexpectedly overcome by horror, someone just thanked me for being raw meat for the surveillance machinery, the target of guards. I’ve never seen a more lighthearted way of understanding repression, but I laugh with the neighbor, what else can I do?! Not wanting to seem distant, I ask her about the plot of the soap opera I have “helped” her to enjoy. She details it with delight. It’s a re-creation of the eighteenth century, with slaves on the run, matrons hiding their illegitimate children from their husbands, the sound of whips landing on backs, dark narrow paths guarded at night by overseers with dogs.”

News-March 13, 2011 

Alan Gross's imprisonment in Cuba.

Alan Gross has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for delivering communication devices to Jewish Cubans.  The U.S. has condemned the sentence.   Numerous sources, including here.

Yoani Sanchez, in her well-known blog, Generation Y,  has posted a recent analysis of the job termination situation. As we’ve explained in recent blogs, the government has been terminating numerous jobs, and has opened up the right for Cubans to operate small businesses.  We’ve been monitoring the situation among friends inside Cuba.  Yoani says it all in this quote:
“For those who grew up in a country where the state, for decades, has been the monopoly employer, to be forced to make a living independently is like jumping into the void. Thus, workers are overcome with fear, lately, as they await the publication of the dreaded list of names of those who will lose their jobs. Not only do fears flourish, but also opportunism and favoritism. The decision of who will keep their places and who will not is made by the directors of each workplace and we already know about cases where it is not the most capable to remain, but those closest to the director. Ironically, the positions they are trying to keep are underpaid, and the loss of a quarter of the workforce does not mean — for now — a salary increase for those who stay.

Downsizing meetings occur in every workplace, even in such sensitive sectors as Public Health. These meetings decide something more important than monthly salaries or belonging to a certain company or institution. It is also a time when people’s eyes are opened to a different Cuba, where the premise of full employment is not proclaimed to the four winds and where working for oneself appears as a bleak and uncertain option. Some exchange the white coat for barber’s scissors, or the syringe for an oven where they bake pizza and bread. They will learn about the inevitable march from economic independence to political independence, they will go bankrupt or prosper, they will lie on their tax returns or honestly report how much they have earned. In the end, they will embark on a new and difficult path, where Papa state cannot support them, but nor will he have the power to punish them.”

News-February 5, 2011 

Alan Gross's imprisonment in Cuba.

Alan Gross has been in prison in Cuba since 2009 for providing telephones to Jewish people in Cuba. This week, there were some blogs about the lack of attention to his plight. Then Cuba indicated it's plans, and the U.S. issued a couple of press releases "deploring" his proposed / expected sentencing.

Cuba seeks 20 years for American 'spy' (Yahoo News)

What Was Alan Gross Doing in Havana? (Politics Daily)

U.S. Press Releases Feb 2011

News-February 1, 2011 

A number of sources have reported that Journalist Cary Roque penned a letter to U.S. President Obama, which was signed by a number of Cuban American organizations, and presented to the President by Congressman David Rivera. The gist of the letter is to object to proposed additional changes to the U.S. position on Cuba travel and transmittal of funds. The letter states that any additional relaxation of U.S. rules does not promote liberty in Cuba. Read letter here

Author Carlos Eire , well known for writing Waiting for Snow in Havana, has published a new book, called Learning to Die in Miami.

News-January 22, 2011

Venezuela's newspeper, El Universal, has published an article entitled "Ship arrives in Venezuela to lay fiber optic cable to Cuba"

News-January 4, 2011

The government of Cuba today indicates it is continuing with its intended firing of government employees. The problem is that virtually everybody is a government employee. It indicates it is permitting businesses, but how exactly will all these unemployed people create businesses at this point, and with no history of ever having been able to do that.

Coupled with this employment problem is the changes to the system of subsidizing and rationing necessities means disaster. We are following the in-country Cuban blogs and other sources to see what the people think.

Yahoo News -
Cash-strapped Cuba moves ahead with job cuts

News-January 3, 2011
HAVANA – The cost of cleanliness will rise in Cuba after its cash-strapped, communist government announced Wednesday that soap, toothpaste and detergent will be slashed from monthly ration books.

Cuba slashes state-subsidised soap

News – December 31, 2010

Several reports on Associated Press and Cuba blogs indicate that the government has determined to reduce availability of soap and toothpaste as subsidized items.  Cuba pays all its citizens the paltry sum of about $25 to $40 a month in a particular type of Peso, used only by the citizens.  All items are also rationed, meaning that Cubans are only able to buy a certain amount per month, and there is a ration book for each family indicating what they have bought. By removing soap and toothpaste from the list, apparently one will have to pay much more for those items than before.  The well-known blogger, Yoani Sanches, who writes from Cuba on her Time Magazine honored blog,, is saying that the rationing system itself is going to end this year. It’s hard to imagine what that means to the people of Cuba.

There are links to this blog and AP reports about this...