Reports from Cuba: Señor General ‘going backwards’

August 8, 2017 by Alberto de la Cruz

Miriam Celaya in Cubanet via Translating Cuba:

Señor General “Going-Backwards”
















In line with the last meeting of the Council of Ministers, held at the end of June, where – according to what the General-President said in his closing speech of the Ninth Ordinary Session of the National Assembly – many deficiencies and problems were analyzed in the self-employment sector (TCP). The Official Gazette, in an extraordinary edition (No. 31) dated Tuesday, August 1, 2017, has decreed the suspension, supposedly temporary, of the delivery of licenses for at least 27 activities of the private sector (“self-employed”), “until the perfection of this sector is concluded.”

In addition, the decree states that in the future – and permanently – no new licenses will be granted to work in the areas of: wholesale of agricultural products; retailers of agricultural products; cart vendors or sellers of agricultural products on an ambulatory basis; buyer and seller of music records; and and operator of recreational equipment.

Despite this, according to what the First Vice Minister of Labor and Social Security told the official press, the provisions of the decree “do not constitute a setback in the development of (self-employed) activity,” but will “consolidate the organization and control of self-employment work so that it continues to advance in an orderly and efficient manner.” But this official did not explain how a process that has been stopped by a government decree could “advance.”


And while such a strategy of advancing by going backwards may be paradoxical, more impudent still are the pretexts that were used to justify the retraction of what was announced years ago as a process of reforms that would oxygenate the internal economy and allow the potential for employment for a portion of the labor force let go from government jobs.

It turns out that the fickle old ruler has discovered “deviations in the implementation of the approved policy” for the TCP, ranging from the use of raw materials and equipment “illicit in their origins” to the “breach of tax obligations,” including under-reporting of sales/income, by members in the sector.

The truth is that, although the authorities have frequently expressed that the TCP has reported benefits in “lightening the burden of the State,” in the reordering of labor, as well as in the supply of goods and services – which, by the way, is not, nor should it be the natural aspiration of private labor anywhere in the world – in practice, this sector has become the most propitious villain (after the “criminal imperialist blockade”) to justify the causes of the failures inherent in the Cuban sociopolitical system.

The aforementioned “deviations” include “lack of answerability and timely solution to problems,” “imprecisions and inadequacies in control” and “deficiencies in economic contracting for the provision of services or supply of production between legal entities and lay persons,” among others.

These latter deficiencies, however, are not attributable to those who engaged in the TCP, but to the representatives and government officials responsible for correct compliance, who did not adequately fulfill their obligations, so that – if tabula rasa is used in the application of the law – the posts of state inspectors, officials of the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT), police officers, and a whole host of bureaucrats related to the implementation and control of TPC should also be suspended and constitute a dense layer of parasites that only tax the increased corruption, which is spread throughout the country in epidemic proportions.

But the new decree of “General Rupert Going-Backwards” also suffers from numerous intrinsic contradictions, such as, that among the activities in this species of temporary “hibernation” are included, first, those who rent housing, rooms and spaces, as well as coffee shops and restaurants (paladares), which is a real folly in a country that – it is said – expects that the number of visitors will reach 4 million this year, and does not have the hotel and food service infrastructure capable of satisfying such demand.

Seen from a more objective perspective, it is obvious that the Cuban government prefers that the foreign tour operators installed throughout Cuba benefit from the influx of foreign visitors, and not the native entrepreneurs themselves. This is not explained as a simple perversion of the system – which it also is – but is making Power panic, in the face of the demonstrated ability, in just a few years, of the private sector to achieve prosperity and autonomy. These entrepreneurs are much more successful and competitive than the State sector, and thus are a potential social force relatively independent from strong government subjection. And it is well-known that the power of autocracies is based on the most absolute social control.

There’s nothing so threatening for the autocratic regime as the possibility of consolidating an autonomous – and therefore potentially free – segment within Cuban society. Hence, the demonization of what they call “accumulation of wealth” and the questioning of the ability of some entrepreneurs to travel abroad and import raw materials and supplies, openly expressed in the aforementioned speech by the General before Parliament.

Equally paradoxical is that during the most recent session of Parliament the existence of a deficit of 883,000 thousand homes in Cuba was officially acknowledged – a figure that should actually be much higher – but at the same time a Decree published today in the Gazette has prohibited the granting of new licenses for private contractors, in direct contradiction to the fact that it has been precisely private construction activity that has marked a slight growth in the manufacture and repair of houses. In contrast, State dependent construction has been accumulating colossal defaults for decades, in a country whose housing is in a calamitous state an whered the majority of the population lacks the resources to attain housing.

Analyzing all the weaknesses and inconsistencies of the new Decree would require dozens of pages, but it is not worth the effort. We are simply facing the latest development of the unrealistic project of “updating the model,” which has been the chimera of Castro II since his arrival to the olive-green throne. There’s nothing so grotesque as trying to implement from the proven imperfection of Power the “perfection of self-employment,” the only segment of the national economy that works with some efficiency.

The General and his claque know it, so this new limitation on the private sector is actually the legal expression of the government’s terror of losing social control in a country where discontent, dissatisfaction and shortages continue to grow. At the moment, everything indicates that the general-president’s reformist disguise will continue to unravel at the seams.

Translated by Norma Whiting

TAKEN FROM BABALU BLOG

CUBAN PROFESSORS GET LAPTOPS BUT NO WIFI CAPABILITIES

Aug 08, 2017 8:46 PM PDT

By Larry Press

Late last year, we learned that China's 90,000 employee Haier Group would be producing laptops and tablets in partnership with GEDEME, a Cuban manufacturer that will assemble the machines using Haier parts, equipment, and production processes.

Last week, a friend who is a professor at the University of Havana told me that he and other professors have been given GDM laptops. He said UCI, ISPJAE and Univerisity of Havana faculty were the first to receive the laptops, but eventually all professors at all universities would get them.

When Haier announced they would be producing laptops in Cuba, they said would be Core i3, Celeron and Core i5 CPUs with up to 1 TB of memory. The processor in my friend's machine is a 1.60GHz Celeron N3060, which Intel announced April 1, 2015. The N3060 is a system on a chip with two processor cores, a graphic processing unit, and a memory controller. His laptop has 4 GB of RAM, a 97.31 GB hard drive, a CD-ROM drive and a 1,024 x 768 pixel display with 32-bit color depth. It has a wired Ethernet port, but no WiFi or Bluetooth.

The machine came with UCI's Nova Unix operating system, but my friend has installed Windows in its place and he says most people do the same. (Cuban officials say they can achieve software independence using Nova, but Cuba is not large enough to support its own software, services, and standards).

These are low-end laptops, but they represent a significant step up over phones and tablets for content creation. They are also power-efficient, making them suitable for portable use, but for some reason, they do not have WiFi radios.

A laptop without WiFi is striking today. I don't know what the marginal cost of WiFi would have been, but Alibaba offers many chips for under $5 in relatively small lots. Why don't these machines have WiFi radios? Is the government trying to discourage portable use at home or public-access hotspots?

Regardless of the reason, WiFi dongles are a low-cost fix. There are not a lot of WiFi dongles for sale on Revolico today and their prices are high, but I bet the offerings pick up if these laptops roll out.

By Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University. More blog posts from Larry Press can also be read here.

FROM BABALU BLOG

TAKEN Canadian diplomat in Cuba, like U.S. diplomats, suffered hearing loss from sonic device


















A Cuban holds a little U.S. flag in front of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, on July 20, 2015, after the two countries formally resumed diplomatic relations.(ADALBERTO ROQUE / AFP/Getty Images)
Matthew Lee, Rob Gillies and Michael WeissensteinAssociated Press


The Canadian government said Thursday that at least one Canadian diplomat in Cuba also has been treated for hearing loss following disclosures that a group of American diplomats in Havana suffered severe hearing loss that U.S. officials believe was caused by an advanced sonic device.

Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman Brianne Maxwell said Canadian officials "are aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and US diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana. The government is actively working — including with U.S. and Cuban authorities - to ascertain the cause."

Maxwell added that officials don't have any reason to believe Canadian tourists and other visitors could be affected.

Canada helped broker talks between Cuba and the United States that led to restored diplomatic relations.

In the fall of 2016, a series of U.S. diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case. Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of President Barack Obama's reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Some of the U.S. diplomats' symptoms were so severe that they were forced to cancel their tours early and return to the United States, officials said. After months of investigation, U.S. officials concluded that the diplomats had been attacked with an advanced sonic weapon that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences.

It was not immediately clear if the device was a weapon used in a deliberate attack, or had some other purpose.

The U.S. officials weren't authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. retaliated by expelling two Cuban diplomats from their embassy in Washington on May 23. She did not say how many U.S. diplomats were affected or confirm they had suffered hearing loss, saying only that they had "a variety of physical symptoms."

The Cuban government said in a lengthy statement late Wednesday that "Cuba has never permitted, nor will permit, that Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, with no exception."

The statement from the Cuban Foreign Ministry said it had been informed of the incidents on Feb. 17 and had launched an "exhaustive, high-priority, urgent investigation at the behest of the highest level of the Cuban government."

It said the decision to expel two Cuban diplomats was "unjustified and baseless."

[U.S. expels 2 Cuban diplomats after sonic device attacks on U.S. diplomats in Cuba]

The ministry said it had created an expert committee to analyze the incidents and had reinforced security around the U.S. embassy and U.S. diplomatic residences.

"Cuba is universally considered a safe destination for visitors and foreign diplomats, including U.S. citizens," the statement said.

U.S. officials told The Associated Press that about five diplomats, several with spouses, had been affected and that no children had been involved. The FBI and Diplomatic Security Service are investigating.

Cuba employs a state security apparatus that keeps many people under surveillance and U.S. diplomats are among the most closely monitored people on the island. Like virtually all foreign diplomats in Cuba, the victims of the incidents lived in housing owned and maintained by the Cuban government.

However, officials familiar with the probe said investigators were looking into the possibilities that the incidents were carried out by a third country such as Russia, possibly operating without the knowledge of Cuba's formal chain of command.

Nauert said investigators did not yet have a definitive explanation for the incidents but stressed they take them "very seriously," as shown by the Cuban diplomats' expulsions.

"We requested their departure as a reciprocal measure since some U.S. personnel's assignments in Havana had to be curtailed due to these incidents," she said. "Under the Vienna Convention, Cuba has an obligation to take measures to protect diplomats."

U.S. diplomats in Cuba said they suffered occasional harassment for years after the restoration of limited ties with the communist government in the 1970s, harassment reciprocated by U.S. agents against Cuban diplomats in Washington. The use of sonic devices to intentionally harm diplomats would be unprecedented.

Gillies reported from Toronto and Weissenstein reported from Havana.

Cuba’s Economy May Not Survive the Fall of the Venezuelan Regime, Experts Warn

By: Karina Martín - Aug 4, 2017, 12:54 pm



















According to the economist Ómar Pérez, it would not be good for Cuba if the Maduro regime falls (Flickr)


EspañolEconomists are warning that a fall of Nicolás Maduro’s regime in Venezuela could be devastating for Cuba.

Professor of Economics at the University of Havana Omar Everleny Pérez said that the island’s economy isn’t prepared for Maduro’s fall because Venezuela is still Cuba’s number-one trading partner.

“For the past two years, we have seen that country’s problems coming but no measures have been taken to prevent the end of this commercial relationship,” he said.

When the crisis began in Venezuela, the supply of resources for the island immediately worsened as well, producing shortages, he pointed out. Those shortages could grow in the coming months.

“The country {Cuba} cut US $1.5 billion in imports in the first half of this year, which will directly affect the population,” he said.

He said one solution could involve sending highly qualified labor to other countries with oil reserves, such as Angola or Algeria.

“It will never be the same as in Venezuela, and those other countries could never absorb the amount of {Cuban} doctors that there are in Venezuela, but it would at least cushion the blow,” he said.

Read More: Another Weekend In Cuba, Repression As Usual: Regime Arrests at Least 70 Dissidents
Read More: Reporters in Venezuela’s Protests Face Brutal Repression from Dictatorship

If the cost of oil goes down, it would allow the island to buy fuel from other allied nations, such as Russia or Algeria.

“In the event that the supply of Venezuelan oil stops, it would be worse than during the time of the {collapse of} the USSR,” Perez explained. “Venezuela provides half of the fuel we need.”

Cuba must immediately expand trade on its own, he said, a possibility that seems very distant after the freeze of new licenses that the Castro regime  announced last Tuesday.

“There is a mass of workers who could get out of state tutelage and pay taxes on activities related to what they studied,” he said. “This would prevent engineers with degrees in computer science from going to Canada or becoming taxi drivers.”

Sources: Cubanet; El Nuevo Herald..

Angola refuses to accept new batch of Cuban slave doctors

August 11, 2017 by Carlos Eire

Very loosely translated from Marti Noticias:

















Angola has refused to accept a new contingent of 189 Cuban doctors.


This unexpected refusal was communicated by email to Roberto Morales, Castrogonia’s Minister of Public Health, on July 31.

The email came from ANTEX, an enterprise run by the Cuban military that handles medical missions in AngolaThe Castro regime has been sending slave doctors to Angola since 1975, when it also began to send Cuban soldiers to fight in Africa on behalf of the Soviet Union.

The reason for this refusal remains unknown, but anonymous sources have hinted that the main issue relates to financial matters and that the Castro regime may have insisted on higher payments from Angola for the slave doctors.