tagged w/ Castro
SANTA CLARA, CUBA—Every morning, on the edge of town, you can witness a spectacular migration. Hundreds of students in white lab coats pour from a squat university building on to the street, around the line of horse-drawn wagons, and into nearby hospitals. They are international students at the world’s largest medical school, the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina — ELAM. To put the school’s size in perspective: the University of Toronto has 850 medical students and Harvard University has 735. ELAM has twelve times more students than those two schools combined: 19,550. And, despite being a poor country, every single one of those students is on full scholarship. The school quickly expanded to include students from more than 110 countries, from Mozambique and Yemen to Cambodia and East Timor. http://www.makeahistory.com/index.php/your-details/43071-cuba-healing-the-world-SANTA CLARA, CUBA—Every morning, on the edge of town, you can witness a... more
11 months ago
“A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now” is a photographic exhibition that looks at three critical periods in Cuba’s history as witnessed by photographers before, during and after the country’s 1959 Revolution. The exhibition juxtaposes Walker Evans’s 1933 images from the end of the Machado dictatorship, with views by contemporary foreign photographers Virginia Beahan, Alex Harris and Alexey Titarenko, who have explored Cuba since the withdrawal of Soviet support in the 1990s. Walker Evans's distinctive photographic style was nurtured by New York in the late 1920s, but it became more fully formed by his 1933 experiences in Cuba.
Virginia Beahan, Alex Harris and Alexey Titarenko look at Cuba in very different ways. In 2001, Virginia Beahan began a multiyear project on Cuba; Beahan’s Cuba is a land of contradictions, full of disappointments and hope, decay and rejuvenating beauty, simultaneously anchored to the past while looking beyond the present.
Through distinct vantage points, Alex Harris probed the country’s propensity for ingenuity as it underwent great transition. His 1998-2003 photographs focus on three icons of the island, the American car, the beautiful woman and the revolutionary hero, as metaphors to explore the distortions with which Cubans and Americans see one another.
Alexey Titarenko’s 2003 photographs of life in Cuba depict people persevering amid varying states of ruin: collecting food rations, fixing long-outmoded cars or playing baseball. Titarenko was drawn to Cuba following years spent photographing his home town of Saint Petersburg, a once-grand city transformed by revolution and slow decay under Communist rule. Titarenko deliberately photographed Havana in much the same way he’d photographed his native St. Petersburg, as a city that has suffered very much from communist policies and communist rule. And so his black-and-white and very dusty gray imagery removes any spark, any color from Havana, which is in fact very colorful.
This piece includes a number of black-and-white and color photographs, a photo-gallery and three documentary short films.
http://disembedded.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/a-revolutionary-project-explorations-of-cuba-from-walker-evans-to-now/“A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now” is a photographic... more
The American Scholar and blogger Ted Henken, who was visiting cuba researching the Cuban bloggersphere, was interrogated before his departure, by Cuban State Police at "Jose Marti" Airport in Havana and was warned that he would not be allowed to re-enter the Island.
The heading of his blog called "El Yuma", Henken writes..... Rejecting the derogatory term "Gringos" and the accusatory epithet "Yanquis," Cubans prefer to refer to us, their North American neighbors, as "Yumas." This blog is simply one Yuma's way of sharing his thoughts on all things Cuban, a subject that often generates more heat than light.
http://sunriseinhavana.blogspot.com/2011/05/american-scholar-and-blogger-ted-henken.htmlThe American Scholar and blogger Ted Henken, who was visiting cuba researching the... more
2 years ago
Martha Roque, a prominent member of the Cuban oppossition reports the sad news that dissident Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, a member of the Coalición Central Opositora (oposition group), has passed away tonight, in Santa Clara, Cuba!! Garcia died of respiratory failure as a result of a beating received at the hands of Cuban opressive state police. May he rest in peace!
http://sunriseinhavana.blogspot.com/2011/05/cuban-dissident-murdered-by-cuban.htmlMartha Roque, a prominent member of the Cuban oppossition reports the sad news that... more
2 years ago
She has a five-bedroom house that is falling to pieces. She got it in the seventies when the family for whom she worked as a maid went into exile. At first she went through all the rooms each day, the interior patio, caressed the marble banister of the stairs to the second floor, played at filling the basins of the three bathrooms just to be reminded that this neoclassical mansion was now hers. The joy lasted for a while, until the first bulbs burned out, the paint started to peel, and weeds grew in the garden. She got a job cleaning a school, but not even six salaries for such a job would have been enough to maintain the ancient splendor of this house that seemed increasingly larger and more inhospitable.
Thousands of times, the woman in this story thought of selling the house inherited from her former employers, but she would not do anything outside the law. For decades in Cuba a market in housing was prohibited and it was only possible to exchange properties through a concept popularly known as a “swap.” Dozens of decrees, restrictions and limitations also arose, to regulate and control this activity, making moving an ordeal. An all-powerful Housing Institute oversaw the completion of a string of absurd conditions. With so many requirements, the procedures were strung out over more than a year, such that before families could go live in their new homes they were exhausted from filling out forms, hiring lawyers and bribing inspectors.
Such anxieties raised hopes that the Sixth Communist Party Congress would raise the flag for real estate. When, in the final report, it said that the purchase and sale of homes would be accepted and all that remained was to legally implement it, hundreds of thousands of Cubans breathed a sigh of relief. The lady with the mansion, at the moment it was announced, was sitting in front of her television avoiding a drip falling from the ceiling right in the middle of the living room. She looked around at the columns with decorated capitals, the huge mahogany doors, and the marble staircase from which the banister had been torn out and sold. Finally she could hang a sign on the fence, “For Sale: Five-bedroom house in urgent need of repairs. Wish to buy a one-bedroom apartment in some other neighborhood.”She has a five-bedroom house that is falling to pieces. She got it in the seventies... more
HAVANA, Cuba, April 18: By Miguel Iturria Savón - Two extraordinary and conflicting events pepper the history of Cuba in the second half of the twentieth century. The first occurred between 17 and 19 April 1961 in the Bay of Pigs, in the south of the island. The second, from April 22 to the 16th of September between the northern port of Mariel and Florida. They were both led by Cubans, but both the 1961 invasion brigade and the mass exodus of 1980, dot the island's bilateral relations with the United States - the refuge used by many in Cuban history as a supply center for our independence of the nineteenth century, and by opponents of the dictatorships of Geraldo Machado, Fulgencio Batista and Castro in the twentieth.
Much has been written about these events to the north and south of Florida. Hundreds of articles, interviews, testimonies, books, documentaries and other media support the communist government's version, the victors of the battle at Playa Giron over the brigade of compatriot exiles trained abroad. The version of the vanquished was, of course, suffocated by the revolutionary fetishism, and is hardly known.
Official propaganda reiterates that Giron (as it is known in Cuba), "was the first defeat of imperialism in Latin America ", which is a distortion, because although the Cuban expedition had the support of the United States government, no American troops took part in the naval operation. The fighters of Brigade 2506, like the guerrillas they were trying to link up with in the Escambray mountains, were fighting against the dictatorship that had taken control of the island after the revolutionary chaos.
The Cubans were less free after the Bay of Pigs. A day earlier, on April 16, 1961 - Fidel Castro declared the socialist character of the revolution. The island was subsequently occupied by thousands of Russian soldiers whose bases were maintained until the mid-eighties. The rest of the story goes through half a century of dictatorship, populist clamor, corruption and the legacy of silence.
The flip side to this was the mass exodus from Mariel and Florida, a popular referendum against authoritarianism. Twenty years of repression, rhetorical contortions, shortages filled with boredom and disappointment to thousands of youths who dreamed of living without instructions.
After the bus that forced the gates of the Embassy of Peru in La Habana, into the embassy entered the flood of the unhappy. To withdraw security to the embassy, the government created the chaos and encouraged the arrival of American vessels to pick up relatives and other "scum." In less than five months left 125,000 people fled to the United States.
Faced with this surge, the leader ordered rallies of repudiation, the throwing of eggs and stones against dissidents, and the introduction of more than three thousand madmen and criminals into the boats of hope in an attempt to destroy the reputation of those who left. Three decades later, the horror and defamation against those who choose another destination remains an official practice.
Accustomed to reliving the past - evoking attacks, revolutionary symbols and involving third parties in the national struggle, the Cuban regime celebrated its victory with another celebration of the Bay of Pigs and the socialist character of the revolution, while its strategists shuffle policies to prevent another mass exodus like the one that created the sea-bridge between Mariel and Florida in the spring of 1980; where bridging the gap between Mariel and Florida represented a leap to freedom.HAVANA, Cuba, April 18: By Miguel Iturria Savón - Two extraordinary and... more
(Reuters) - Cuba will consider placing term limits on its leaders to assure new blood in the goverment, President Raul Castro said on Saturday in a speech kicking off a Communist Party congress on the island he and his brother led for more than five decades.
He said the government does not have "a reserve of well-trained replacements with sufficient experience and maturity" to replace the current leaders, most of whom are in their 70s and 80s.
"We have reached the conclusion that it is advisable to recommend limiting the time of service in high political and state positions to a maximum of two five-year terms," he told 1,000 delegates at the congress, where economic reform is the main agenda item.
Castro, 79, said he would not be excluded from the limits, which will be discussed not at this congress, but a party conference next January.
Cuba's geriatric leadership has been a topic of concern for a government intent on assuring the survival of Cuban socialism and new faces could be elected to high party positions during the congress.
Long-tenured officials have been a trademark of Cuba since the 1959 revolution that put Fidel Castro in power.
Fidel Castro, who is 84 and did not attend the congress, ruled for 49 years and younger brother Raul Castro was defense minister for the same amount of time before taking over the presidency in 2008.
In the line of succession, first vice president Juan Machado Ventura is 80 and second vice president Ramiro Valdes is 77.
"It's really embarrassing that we have not solved this problem in more than half a century," Castro said.
"Although we kept trying to promote young people to senior positions, life proved that we did not always make the best choice," he said.
Raul Castro was expected to be elected the party's First Secretary, a post he has filled unofficially since Fidel Castro fell ill in 2006. Fidel Castro only recently disclosed that he had left the post.
Closely watched for any signs of new blood will be the selections for Second Secretary, the post Raul Castro has held, and for the Central Committee and Political Bureau.
Due to the "laws of life," this is likely the last party congress for Cuba's aging leaders, President Castro has said.
He told the congress, the party's first in 14 years, it would consider 311 proposed reforms during the four-day meeting, all aimed at remaking Cuba's creaking, Soviet-style economy.(Reuters) - Cuba will consider placing term limits on its leaders to assure new blood... more
Washington, DC – The International Republican Institute (IRI) today released its survey and analysis of Cuban public opinion. The survey was fielded on the island January 28 – February 10, 2011
A total of 463 Cuban adults were asked questions ranging from perspectives on the economy, to the performance of the current Castro government.
_ 78% of Cubans would be willing to vote for fundamental political change.
_ 77% are not confident in the ability of Raul Castro's government to solve their problems.
_ 93% of those aged 18-29 want fundamental political change.
_ 90.7% of Cubans want a transition to a market economy.
_ Only 5% have access to Internet.
_ Only 23% have access to E-mail services.Washington, DC – The International Republican Institute (IRI) today released its... more
n an article published today in Havana, Cuban ex-president Fidel Castro declared that Barack Obama could earn a living writing children's books. Citing that Obama was an excellent orator, and well articulated, he pointed out that instead of declaring war against Libya, he should have been trying to promote peace.
Castro had watched Obama's March 28th speech in which he spoke about US moral involvement in the Libyan civil war and said that it was not worth wasting any more paper on the subject. He did however indicate that Obama was obsessed about Qaddafi, and presented contradictory statements about the Libyan leader.n an article published today in Havana, Cuban ex-president Fidel Castro declared that... more
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Former US President Jimmy Carter aimed to hit all the right points on a three-day trip to Cuba. He sat with revolutionary icon Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl, and met today with leading Cuban dissidents, calling attention to the human rights and political issues that have long been at the center of stalled US-Cuba relations.But Mr. Carter was unable to resolve a key sticking point between the Castro regime and Obama administration: the release of jailed US contractor Alan P. Gross.
While that, in itself, was enough to cast Carter's trip as a disappointment, analysts say Mr. Gross's release would not likely have provided the impetus for a major turning point in relations that were severed 50 years ago.Naturally, his visit raised hopes that this might represent an ever-so-small but significant breakthrough for democracy. Within months, Fidel Castro dashed those hopes. The Cuban “black spring” of March 2003 saw the round-up and imprisonment of 75 dissidents on flimsy, capricious charges designed to stifle any hint of political freedom or accommodation. It was a vicious blow to the aspirations of millions of Cubans and a testament to the enduringly repressive and capricious nature of the hard-line Castro regime.
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/03/31/2144019/cubas-dissidents-are-not-alone.html#ixzz1IHPExXc1Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Former US President Jimmy Carter aimed to hit all... more
HAVANA, Cuba [2:15 am] Fidel Castro has died in Havana overnight according to reports being released by the Cuban media early Friday morning. The Cuban leader has apparently suffered a stroke in his sleep and has died in Havana. Doctors have confirmed that the aged revolutionary leader died early this morning according to sources within the Interior Ministry and sources in the Cuban media.HAVANA, Cuba [2:15 am] Fidel Castro has died in Havana overnight according to reports... more
A look into the heart of Havana from a musician traveler point of view, not skewed beforehand; an objective telling of the personal experience. Nancy Mroczek PhD - www.nancymroczek.comA look into the heart of Havana from a musician traveler point of view, not skewed... more
Developments in Egypt over the last two weeks brought Cuba to my mind. Why does a similar rebellion against five decades of repression there still appear to be a far-off dream? Part of the answer is in the relationship between the Castro brothers—Fidel and Raúl—and the generals. The rest is explained by the regime's significantly more repressive model. In the art of dictatorship, Hosni Mubarak is a piker.
That so many Egyptians have raised their voices in Tahrir Square is a testament to the universal human yearning for liberty. But it is a mistake to ignore the pivotal role of the military. I'd wager that when the history of the uprising is written, we will learn that Egypt's top brass did not approve of the old man's succession plan to anoint his son in the next election.
Castro has bought loyalty from the secret police and military by giving them control of the three most profitable sectors of the economy—retail, travel and services. Hundreds of millions of dollars flow to them every year. If the system collapses, so does that income. Of course the Egyptian military also owns businesses. But it doesn't depend on a purely state-owned economy. And as a recipient of significant U.S. aid and training for many years, the Egyptian military has cultivated a culture of professionalism and commitment to the nation over any single individual.
In Cuba there are no opposition political parties or nonstate media; rapid response brigades enforce the party line. Travel outside the country is not allowed without state approval. If peaceful dissidents with leadership skills can't be broken, they are eventually exiled. Or they are murdered.
The most striking difference between Cuba and Egypt is access to the Internet. In a March 2009 Freedom House report on Internet and digital media censorship world-wide, Egypt scored a 45 (out of 100), slightly worse than Turkey but better than Russia. Cuba scored a 90, making it more Net-censored than even Iran, China and Tunisia. Cellphone service is too expensive for most Cubans.
Yet technology does somehow seep into Cuba. When Fidel took the life of prisoner of conscience Pedro Boitel in 1972 by denying him water during a hunger strike, the world hardly noticed. By contrast, news of the regime's 2010 murder of prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo hit the Internet almost immediately and was met with worldwide condemnation. The military dictatorship was helpless to contain the bad publicity.
In a similar fashion, when the Ladies in White—a group of wives, sisters and mothers of political prisoners—walking peacefully in Havana were roughed up by state security last year, the images were captured on cellphones and immediately showed up on the Web. It was more bad PR for the Castro brothers and their friends like Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Spanish President José Luis Zapatero.
Technology-induced international pressure is making the regime increasingly reluctant to flatten critics the old-fashioned way. In an interview in Argentina's Ambito Financiero on Jan. 27, internationally recognized Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez said the "style" of state repression has shifted from aggressive arrests and long sentences to targeted attempts at defamation and isolation. Ms. Sanchez also said that uniformed police are "distancing themselves from the political theme, not by orders from above, but because they no longer want to be associated with the repression." Now, she said, the intimidation and arbitrary arrests are largely carried out by the secret police in civilian clothes.
A little more space has emboldened the population. Ms. Sánchez also said in the interview that she is "optimistic about the slow and irreversible process of interior change in Cubans. In that the citizen critic will grow, will have less fear, and will feel that the mask is increasingly unnecessary and that it doesn't any longer translate into privileges and subsidies."
Last week a leaked video of a Cuban military seminar on how to combat technology hit the Internet. It demonstrates the dictatorship's preoccupation with the Web. The lecturer warns about the dangers of young people with an appealing discourse sharing information through technology and trying to organize. Real-time chat, Twitter and the emergence of young leaders in cyberspace—aka "a permanent battlefield"—are perils outlined in the hour-long talk. The lecturer also shares his concerns about U.S. government programs that try to increase Internet access outside of officialdom on the island.
On Friday, the regime further displayed its paranoia by charging U.S. Agency for International Development contractor Alan Gross with spying. Mr. Gross has been in jail for 14 months for giving Cuban Jews computer equipment so they could connect with the diaspora.
With very limited access, Cubans are already using the Internet to share what has until now been kept in their heads: counterrevolutionary thoughts. If those go viral, even a well-fed military will not be able to save the regime. But for now, Cubans can only dream about the freedoms Egyptians enjoy as they voice their grievances.Developments in Egypt over the last two weeks brought Cuba to my mind. Why does a... more
Then-US Ambassador William Brownfield wrote that Cuban spies had "direct access" to President Hugo Chavez.
Another cable sent in 2010 said Cuban agents controlled spying operations against the US embassy in Caracas.
The left-wing governments of Cuba and Venezuela are close allies and outspoken opponents of the US.
The secret diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks were published by the Spanish newspaper, El Pais.
Similar allegations of Cuban intelligence influence in Venezuela have been made by Venezuelan opposition groups, but US officials have not publicly expressed such concerns.
The leaked cable from Ambassador Brownfield says the ties between Cuban and Venezuelan intelligence are so close that the two countries agencies "appear to be competing with each other for the Venezuelan government's attention".
The ambassador wrote that Cuban spies were so close to President Chavez that they provided him with intelligence unvetted by Venezuelan officers.
"Cuban agents train Venezuelans on both Cuba and Venezuela, providing both political indoctrination and operational instruction".
The ambassador concludes that the Cuban involvement could impact US interests directly.
"Venezuelan intelligence services are among the most hostile towards the United States in the hemisphere, but they lack the expertise that Cuban services can provide".
The level of Cuban involvement in other agencies of the Venezuelan government was harder to confirm, he wrote.
The embassy "had received no credible reports of extensive Cuban involvement in the Venezuelan military", but there were reports that Cubans were training Mr Chavez's bodyguard.
But Cubans were likely to be involved "to a great extent" in agricultural policy, as well as in an identity card scheme.
The ambassador added that it was impossible to tell how many Cubans were working in Venezuela.
Cuba's biggest and most public involvement in Venezuela is in the provision of tens of thousands of doctors and nurses who provide basic health services in poor areas.
In return, Venezuela provides Cuba with subsidized oil.Then-US Ambassador William Brownfield wrote that Cuban spies had "direct... more
HAVANA (AP) — Cuba harshly criticized a new video game in which U.S. special operations soldiers try to kill a young Fidel Castro, saying Wednesday that the violent role-playing glorifies assassination and will turn American children into sociopaths."What the United States couldn't accomplish in more than 50 years, they are now trying to do virtually," said an article posted on Cubadebate, a state-run news website.
The brouhaha surrounds one of the most highly anticipated shoot-em-up video games of the year, "Call of Duty: Black Ops," which went on sale in the United States on Tuesday. The game, from California-based Activision Blizzard Inc., takes players on secret missions to American Cold War enemies such as the Soviet Union, Cuba, Vietnam and Laos.
The Cuban operation is one of the first challenges players face in the ultra-realistic game. The mission takes place with John F. Kennedy in the White House in the months leading up to the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear Armageddon.http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5i2g9xxfshkOBVItjL1vjT_Vu3VYg?docId=ef86b500f3e541d79942d270ecd9b7ebHAVANA (AP) — Cuba harshly criticized a new video game in which U.S. special... more
Cuban leader Fidel Castro is known to have a rather dry sense of humour when it comes to the myriad of unsuccessful assassination attempts that have been carried out against him. "I think I hold the dubious record of having been the target of more assassination attempts than any politician, in any country, in any era," he once remarked in a speech. "The day I die, nobody will believe it."
But his regime has taken a dim view of the latest Call of Duty game in which players take part in an imaginary attempt by a US special forces to hunt down and kill the Communist leader.
The island’s state run media today launched a visceral attack on the game, claiming America was trying to initiate a virtual assassination of the Cuban leader through a game that would turn children into “sociopaths”.
"What the US couldn't accomplish in more than 50 years, they are now trying to do virtually," was the opinion of Cubadebate, a state-run news website. “This new video game is doubly perverse. On the one hand, it glorifies the illegal assassination attempts the United States government planned against the Cuban leader ... and on the other, it stimulates sociopathic attitudes in North American children and adolescents."
The target for Cuba’s ire is Call of Duty: Black Ops, the latest game from the highly popular first-person-shooter franchise by US publisher Activision which had its global release on Tuesday.
The game is set at the height of the Cold War with players taking part in covert missions against Communist enemies of the United States such as the Soviet Union, Cuba, Vietnam and Laos.
The opening level is set in the hours leading up to the Bay of Pigs invasion, the disastrous 1961 attempt by Cuban exiles and the US military to topple the Castro regime. Gamers take on the role of a member of an elite CIA assassination squad sent into Cuba before the invasion to try and decapitate the regime.
After a series of skirmishes in the streets of Havana, the squad breaks into a villa where they are told the Cuban leader is hiding.
The assassination team bursts into a room and guns down a bearded man in military fatigues that they suspect to be Castro. At the end of the level, however, one of the members of the squad is captured and discovers that they only succeeded in killing a body double. The “real” Castro, complete with pixelated cigar and menacing laugh, then hands over the CIA operative to a renegade Soviet general.
Although the game’s mission is fictional, for the Cuban regime it clearly contains shades of reality that are a little too close for comfort... (continued in link)
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/black-ops-game-draws-fire-from-cuba-over-castro-target-2131502.htmlCuban leader Fidel Castro is known to have a rather dry sense of humour when it comes... more
Members of the American Ballet Theater danced in Cuba for the first time in 50 years last night in a tribute to the troupe's former prima ballerina, Cuban ballet legend Alicia Alonso.The dancers performed in Havana's Karl Marx Theater before an enthusiastic audience that included Alonso, who turns 90 on December 21.The ballet troupe made several previous appearances in Cuba but the last was in 1960 as relations between the United States and Cuba worsened after the 1959 Cuban revolution that put Fidel Castro in power.This visit is the latest attempt at cultural diplomacy between the two ideological foes as they search for common ground after five decades of hostility.Alonso, nearly blind but still active, took a bow with the troupe at the end of the show and received a prolonged standing ovation, according to Reuters. She danced with the American Ballet Theater in the 1940s and 1950s and performed some of its most famous works. Alonso returned to Cuba after the revolution and, with Castro's support, formed the Cuban National Ballet, where she has groomed dancers who now perform around the world.Two of American Ballet Theatre's top dancers, Jose Manuel Carreno and Xiomara Reyes, are from Cuba and were Alonso proteges.Under U.S. President Barack Obama, official U.S.-Cuba relations have improved only slightly but there have been a growing number of cultural exchanges.Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra performed in Havana last month and pop group Kool and The Gang played an outdoor concert last year in the capital. Cuban musicians including Silvio Rodriguez, Chucho Valdes and Omara Portuondo have performed recently in the United States.Alonso went to New York in June for a tribute performance by the American Ballet Theater in New York.The U.S.-based company's Cuban performances are part of Havana's International Ballet Festival. Members of the New York Ballet also have danced this week at the festival.
Members of the American Ballet Theater danced in Cuba for the first time in 50 years... more
Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Cuba announced on Monday it would lay off "at least" half a million state workers over the next six months and simultaneously allow more jobs to be created in the private sector as the socialist economy struggles to get back on its feet.
The plan announced in state media confirms that President Raul Castro is following through on his pledge to shed some one million state jobs, a full fifth of the official workforce -- but in a shorter timeframe than initially anticipated.
"Our state cannot and should not continue maintaining companies, productive entities and services with inflated payrolls and losses that damage our economy and result counterproductive, create bad habits and distort workers' conduct," the CTC, Cuba's official labor union, said in newspapers.
Castro had announced layoffs in August, but said they would occur over the next five years.
At the time, he said the government "agreed to broaden the exercise of self employment and its use as another alternative for the employment of those excess workers."
The drastic and unprecedented economic changes have many Cubans worried that jobs they had long taken for granted under the Communist government will no longer be guaranteed.
Others are hopeful that they will have more freedom to set prices and earn more than the average state wage of $20 a month.
The state currently controls more than 90 percent of the economy, running everything from ice cream parlors and gas stations to factories and scientific laboratories. Traditionally independent professions, such as carpenters, plumbers and shoe repairmen, are also employed by the state.
State media on Monday did not give details about where private enterprise would be allowed to grow or which sectors would suffer layoffs, but did talk about which areas are still strategic.
"Within the state sector, it will only be possible to fill the jobs that are indispensable in areas where historically the labor force is insufficient, like agriculture, construction, teachers, police, industrial workers and others."
The announcement avoided the word "private," but said alternative forms of employment to be allowed included renting or borrowing state-owned facilities, cooperatives and self employment and that "hundreds of thousands of workers" would find jobs outside of the state sector over the next few years.
Castro has launched a few, small free-market reforms since taking over from his brother Fidel Castro in 2006.
In April, for example, barbershops were handed over to employees, who pay rent and tax but charge what they want. Licenses have also been granted to private taxis.
For a couple of years, fallow land in the countryside has been turned over to private farmers. The more they produce, the more they earn.Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Cuba announced on Monday it would lay off "at least"... more
Listen to the 9 minute NPR piece on the link. In it is a short excerpt from the book written by John Paul Rathbone, the British born son of a Cuban exile. His book is the biography of Julio Lobo, a mythical tycoon in Cuba's history...
Around midnight on Oct. 11, 1960, the revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara summoned Julio Lobo to his office at the Central Bank in Havana. It was 22 months after the communist takeover, and Lobo knew his luck would soon run out. He was Cuba's richest businessman — an avowed capitalist. And so when he arrived to meet the young revolutionary — Guevara was just 32 years old — he didn't quite know what to expect.
In his new book, The Sugar King of Havana, John Paul Rathbone describes the scene:
"Guevara leaned forward in his chair, still formally polite, firm and clear. In so many words, he told Lobo that the time had come for him to make a decision: The revolution was communist and he, as a capitalist, could not remain as he was. Lobo could either stay and be part of it, or go."
Guevara wanted Lobo to run Cuba's newly nationalized sugar industry. Rathbone's book tells the story of what happened next and what led up to that moment. The book is part biography and part history of Cuba's main cash crop — sugar.
Lobo is not very well-known, but as Rathbone tells NPR's Guy Raz, that is why he chose to write about him.
"When you read Cuban history books, you see his name always as a footnote to some large deal, some large sugar crop, but his life is sort of shadowy and mysterious. And in time, I came to see Lobo as a kind of machine with which to explore the pre-revolutionary period," Rathbone says.
He says Lobo's lifespan itself provides insight into Cuba's historical transformation. Lobo was born the year after the War of Independence against Spain, in 1898, and left Cuba in 1960.
At age 21, just out of college, Lobo brokered the most lucrative sugar deal at that point — worth $6 million — with the British firm Tate and Lyle.
"I think it was that trade which gave Lobo the confidence — he'd been ambitious ever since a child — to think that he really could become 'Sugar King,' " Rathbone says.
Rathbone says that Cuba was the world's largest exporter of sugar, and it controlled about half of the world's "free-floating" sugar market — the market not protected by countries like the United States or Europe. Lobo himself controlled about 10 percent of the Cuban crop.
Lobo tried to avoid the culture of gangsterism and cronyism that Rathbone describes as having flourished in Cuba. This period followed the military coup known as the Sergeants' Revolt, on Sept. 4, 1933, led by dictator Fulgencio Batista himself — then an unknown sergeant in the army.
"Lobo, despite his wealth, took pride in his honesty," Rathbone says. "The only way to make money was to make it cleanly — otherwise it didn't count in his view."
Lobo's philosophy did not keep him safe from attack. On Aug. 6, 1946, Lobo purchased the Caracas Sugar Mill, which would become his largest. That same night, he was shot while driving home and nearly lost his life.
"It was a very close call. He always walked with a limp afterwards. Through the rest of his life he had some shrapnel very close to his spine, and one bullet plowed through his skull and took four inches of bone off," Rathbone says.
In Sugar King, Rathbone explains that the Cuban bourgeoisie, now vilified by the Castro regime, were not necessarily pro-Batista. But they also opposed the idea of communism.
"The vast majority of Cubans on the island, including the wealthy and the well-to-do, opposed Batista. And why not? He'd taken power in a coup in 1952; he was corrupt; the mafia was a rising influence; there was not very much that anyone really liked about him," Rathbone says. "The idea that the upper classes in Cuba were opposed to Fidel Castro, or more accurately, that they didn't want Batista out, is wrong. And there were various ways in which the upper-middle classes supported the rebels."
Lobo's meeting with Guevara in 1960 shows their complicated connection.
"[Lobo is] offered the sugar industry in Cuba. And he's offered the chance to nationalize it and make it hum and become efficient, in the way that Lobo had often agitated for in the past," Rathbone says.
But Lobo's response to Guevara was: "I'm a capitalist and you're a communist. And I've been a capitalist all my life."
That night, Lobo knew that was the end. The next day, he went to his office to gather paperwork, but saw it had all been boarded up. After a brief interaction with a young boy in a green uniform sitting at his desk, Lobo left the office, and later that day flew to Mexico and then to New York.
Since most of Lobo's fortune was invested in the island, leaving meant starting over anew. For a while, he did well. But the markets did not go his way, and he lost it all again. Lobo died in exile in Spain in 1983. He was 85 years old. On a recent trip to Cuba, Rathbone found a commemorative plaque in Lobo's former office.
"I was really struck that in an island that still proclaims itself as revolutionary, here was a plaque to who you would have thought could easily be painted as part of the evil tyranny of capitalism and imperialism, but on the contrary was being sort of tacitly praised," Rathbone says.
[Read more by clicking at the link]...Listen to the 9 minute NPR piece on the link. In it is a short excerpt from the book... more